Denominational website upgrade draws closer

It’s nearly time to select a vendor to revamp and relaunch pcusa.org

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Marvin Meyer via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — The launch of the revamped, reorganized and unified denominational website, https://www.pcusa.org, is targeted for completion by the end of 2022 or the first quarter of 2023, a team tasked with finding a vendor to design the new site’s functions, searchability and organization said on Monday.

Jeffrey Lawrence, the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s director of Media & Publishing, said the team is in the process of selecting a vendor to design and launch the website, which will also include material from https://presbyterianmission.org.

Jeffrey Lawrence

Beginning in 2019, Centralis, a Chicago-area experience research firm, did testing and interviews with mid council leaders, Spanish- and Korean-language speakers, Christian educators, pastors and people in the pews from around the country. Lawrence said Centralis urged the website team to streamline and reorganize website content by topics instead of organizational structures “to make it easier and intuitive for users,” Lawrence said. “Users were clear they don’t need an archive of everything our offices have ever produced.”

Once the selection has been made, the work of developing the new website should begin by March 15. According to Lawrence, content migration will be the biggest job in launching the new website.

The Rev. Donna Frischknecht Jackson

The Rev. Donna Frischknecht Jackson, editor of Presbyterians Today, has been hired part-time to be digital content manager. The most pressing needs are to put together a content strategy by highlighting timely and relevant items for the website, deciding where it belongs and where it lives, how to organize and label it and add keywords so that users can easily find the information they seek, Lawrence said. Jackson will develop protocols for when resources need to come down from the website and when they need to be updated.

The website team, which in addition to Lawrence includes Vicente Guna, associate director for Technologies in the Office of the General Assembly, and Denise Govindarajan, associate director of Information Technology for the Administrative Services Group, answered questions following their talk.

Lawrence said as the rollout of the new website draws near, a cross-section of users will be polled to see if they’re able to find what they’re looking for. The new website “is being built for users, reflecting their needs and tastes and interests,” Lawrence said. “That will dictate what the site looks like.”

Vicente Guna

Every effort will be made, Guna said, to smooth the transition from the current websites to the unified site that’ll be developed. The vendors being considered for the project all have experience working with nonprofit or religious organizations.

“That was one of our major concerns,” Guna said. “I feel really good about the companies that have submitted bids.”

Another goal is that the new website will be “fully available” in both Spanish and Korean, Lawrence said, through a process that involves both machine translation and human translation. A legal document pertaining to the constitution, for example, will be translated by a human, while a more routine posting might be translated by machine and then reviewed by a human. Other languages beyond Spanish and Korean could be available down the road, Lawrence said.

A primary goal will be for the selected design and development partner to install “a first class, bang-up search engine” to “weight and filter” the information that users are seeking, Lawrence said.

“Vendors we have talked to have suggested some high-performing search engines they recommend we integrate into the site,” he said.

Once the new site is in operation, the team has the option of engaging ongoing user testing to see how the site is performing. In five or seven years, “we will be called upon to take another hard look” at how the site is functioning, Lawrence said, unless there’s “an indication we need to step in and do something sooner.”

Denise Govindarajan

“Once you put it out there, you need to take care of it on a daily basis,” Guna said. “That organization, that taxonomy — the ears out to our constituents — that is ongoing work.”

“One way to keep it fresh is through content,” Govindarajan said. “We can do surveys and get feedback on keeping things up to date and fresh.”

“We have to be mindful that things can’t stay there forever,” Guna said. “It becomes the responsibility of everyone who posts resources on the website to keep things updated.”

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the PMA, thanked the team for “this large and much-needed undertaking.”

“I think it will be important as we move forward in ministry for mid councils and pastors to access what they need,” Moffett said. “I know it will be a blessing for our denomination and for our partners.”


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