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19 March 2009

I'm Calling it "Browser Day"

I thought I'd post about browsers since I just downloaded two of them.

One I'm extremely happy about. And the other I'm totally indifferent about.

Let's start with Internet Explorer 8. Yes. I'm indifferent. I downloaded the Release Candidate (RC1) just to start preparing myself for the change. I don't use IE anymore except for a few things where IE is the only browser that will work. I'm just not that interested in what new things IE has to offer anymore since there have been so many letdowns in the past.

At this point I'm more concerned about web standards. Hopefully IE8 will bring the major browsers that much closer to displaying content consistently and correctly. As a designer/developer I've played the game for so long I'm used to it. But what if you could build a website in a standard format and expect that all browsers would render it the same? What would that be like?

I'll play around with it a bit to see what the new "features" are all about but I'm not holding my breath...

The other browser I downloaded is called Fennec which is the alpha release of the mobile browser built by Mozilla (makers of Firefox).

Now Fennec isn't available yet for your mobile phone (unless you own a Nokia N810). But I downloaded it to my desktop just to play with it.

I'm totally stoked about this browser and how it could revolutionize the mobile browsing experience. It displays full websites with ease, has flash integration and can even install some of the extensions popular to the full version of Firefox.

In this walkthrough video you can see how a touch screen coupled with physical keyboard makes for a happy surfing combination :)

If I truly wind up with a Palm Pre (which means I physically picked one up and didn't hate it), I think this would be the perfectly matched browser for everyday use.

We'll see!

18 March 2009

I'm Glad I'm Part of Some"Thing"

The other day my team was locked in a conference room doing data entry for an upcoming project. We were working hard trying to stay positive when the door opened and in walked the Senior Pastor.

He said something like, "Just checking in...making sure everyone is doing alright."

We laughed, said hi and then got back to work. But the small gesture wasn't lost on us. In a church this size the tendency is for the Leadership Team (what we call SMT) to retreat to large offices behind solid oak doors and administrative assistants that serve to deflect and redirect. But not at Granger.

Not only is SMT approachable and an integrated part of how we do ministry. But they make themselves available to other churches as well. They open themselves up to criticism by discussing things we do well and not so well. Many churches put locks on their doors and hold onto what they do well. But the SMT at Granger are always looking for ways to resource other churches and give away their knowledge through things like Workshops and the recently added Leadership Live Event.

I look at other large churches and there seems to be one significant personality at the top. One person that everyone looks up to and yet has little to no access to. But not at Granger.

That doesn't mean there isn't respect for the SMT. If anything, their approachability and humility makes our respect that much more sincere.

I'm SO glad I'm part of some"thing" and not some"one" at Granger

14 March 2009

Data Entry = Stalking = 10 Things to Fix on Your Website

We recently began a data cleanup project in preparation for a BIG change to (I think you'll like it when it hits).

Project summary: Every person in the database should be connected to a church, company or organization. Of course this isn't the case half the time and even if they are connected to one of the above - the contact info for that church, company or organization isn't correct or complete. So we're going line by line through this list and doing a web search to find the correct information.

There have been a few companies and organizations but for the most part we're looking up church websites. And wow were my eyes opened.

I know a lot of the churches represented in the database are small churches that don't have the know how or resources to put together a cutting edge website. But today there are so many other options out there. Even a free blog can look more professional than a poorly done website.

In my searching I quickly put together the following list. Please don't take it personally. Simply look at it as a quick and easy task list for making revisions to your website.

Also - here are two great resources to help you take your website to the next level in a very systematic and structured way: First, read Less Clutter. Less Noise. by Kem Meyer (available soon). Second, attend the WEB Workshop on November 12.

Top 10 Things to Fix on Your Website

  1. Contact information: Sounds simple but you wouldn't believe how many sites had no contact information anywhere! Create a redundant page footer OR a "Contact Us" page that has at a minimum your address, phone number and email contact ( By the way, I don't need the phone number and email address for each pastor on your staff.
  2. Color scheme: Colors are picky about who they hang out with. Make sure to use friendly colors for your site - not random colors from rival gangs...
  3. Multiple navigation menus: I can't stress this enough. Use a whiteboard and visually lay out your site. Clump things into categories (big buckets) and then create your navigation from that. Keep this navigation consistent throughout the site so people don't get lost. This can be a huge task for churches with more than one campus. But getting it right means people will actually returning to your site.
  4. Bad pages/links/content: Website maintenance is really what I'm getting at here. Having a website is like having a new responsibility. You can't just put it out there and forget about it. Check it regularly for broken links, missing pages and out of date content.
  5. Promotional banners/graphics: Don't fall into the trap of creating a new logo and banner ad for every event and placing these on your home page. I seriously doubt each of these events is THAT important... As they add up so does the tension in my head. Keep all of your events on one page or in one location. Weight each the same. If something is BIG and needs elevated - move it to the home page as a small graphic with intro copy. Or add it to your large graphic slide show on the home page.
  6. The "inside jokes": I don't actually mean jokes - just thought it would help illustrate my point. I mean the events or ministries that have some obscure name that only people attending your church understand. For example: A large graphic/button that says "Jlife" or "T3" or "TheMax" without any explanation as to what it means. Even if you do describe it three pages in - the person hitting your site for the first time might be confused and not want to click that far in.
  7. Widget Overkill: Keep widgets to a minimum. I don't need a hit counter, weather bug and rss feed to local news stations on the home page - or any page for that matter. Keep your site streamlined and for the stuff people come to you for. If I want the weather I'll look at the weather bug on my Vista Sidebar.
  8. Basic functionality: People who use the web come to expect certain things. Make sure you aren't confusing them by forgetting basic principles or doing "cool" things that force them to learn new (unnecessary) skills. Examples: Links should turn the cursor to a hand. Email addresses should be links that pop an email client (not just plain copy that we have to copy/paste). Basic html beats graphics and flash hands down because people can select text. Etc.
  9. Search engine optimization: Your site wants to be found! Don't stand in the way of Mr. Google when he comes calling. Make sure your home page has "meta" tags in the "head" section at a minimum (go here for more info). Giving your website a description and keywords are what will get you found easily.
  10. Overwhelming content: Finally, please don't kill me with content. The eyes and the mind can only handle so much at one time. A good solution for this is to pull out the whiteboard (like while you are getting the navigation figured out) and do some soul searching. Figure out what information is vital. Get rid of the fluff. Turn big chunks of copy into bite sized summaries. Streamline. Streamline. Streamline. Less is definitely more on your website. People can come to your church to get the details.
This list is by no means all-inclusive. I simply picked ten things that stood out and seemed to be constructive vs. picky (meaning: if fixed they could help take the site to the next level).

Hope this was helpful.

11 March 2009


First off. Yes. That is the Palm Pre.

Second. No. I don't actually have one. Never even touched one. You can thank Photoshop for the visual...

But don't be distracted by the phone. This post is about mobile websites - or the lack thereof.

This week we launched our mobile site ( after going years without one. In the past it either wasn't necessary due to the small number of mobile browsers hitting the site, or we simply focused on other projects that pushed mobile to the bottom of the list.

In my limited knowledge of the mobile explosion it seems like there are at least three ways to do mobile websites:

  • Accessible/Integrated: By creating your html/css pages following strict standards of accessibility your pages should "degrade" gracefully depending on the browser viewing it. Not only older browsers, but mobile browsers too. Adding separate stylesheets for other devices can also help with this. Summary: No new pages. You website is both full and mobile in one.
  • Completely Separate: The other extreme is to develop a mobile site just for phones/PDA's. If the device hits the main site you can check the browser type and funnel them to the mobile site. Summary: Truth be told you have two separate sites. The mobile site is often renamed :: :: for example.
  • Hybrid (our solution): We have a dynamic backend that uses a limited number of templates to present data from a database. Because of this it made sense to try and integrate the mobile site into our weekly processes in our administration console. We created a few static pages that use a mobile template. This rounds out our navigation and static pages. Pages that require daily or weekly changes, are dynamic in that what we create for our main website can be pulled into the "mobile site" but presented on a mobile template. Summary: Best of both worlds...
Another project off the task list - even though there are some sweet enhancements to be made in the future (come on Fellowship Technologies - where's the mobile version of WebLink complete with online giving for mobile?)

But for now I feel we have achieved a much needed sense of mHarmony...

10 March 2009

Go Play in the Dirt!

There are numerous conferences available each year. Some are straight technical, some focus on leadership and still others help renew and refresh your faith. There are those driven by marketplace professionals and those driven by Christians doing marketplace stuff...

I attended SXSW last year and got a taste of what it is like to rub shoulders with Adobe, Google, Facebook and Flickr folks. And while it was fun, it was also a bit overwhelming.

I recently saw an advertisement for the Dirt Conference. I visited the website and quickly became excited. I know it doesn't compare with the firepower of a SXSW, but I'm not sure I even want that fire power right now.

What I'm looking for is a smaller venue with less people. And I'm even good with the fact that the majority (if not all) of the speakers are from the Christian community.

I love what's going on in the church right now and I love the future we have ahead of us.

I haven't booked my flights - though I'd love to. It's on my short list for sure.

List of Topics and Presenters.

06 March 2009


Here we go - day 2. workshops for 2009.

Currently sitting in Kem Meyer's workshop called Untangling the Web.

Great stuff that every Web Director (or person in charge of stuff like that at your church) should hear: Like how to "make paper" prior to launching your website and that it might be better to take down a bad website than have one at all.

This workshop is offered at least one more time this year so if this is your gig - make plans now to attend the next one.

I'll Show You Mine...

I was looking at my Quick Launch bar the other day and thought, "How cool would it be to see how other people lay out their Quick Launch bars?"


I don't know...maybe because it says something about a person. A person's desktop is less interesting to me because it's typically just cluttered up with shortcuts to programs and documents.

The Vista Sidebar isn't of much interest either because there is typically a clock, the date, a system analyzer and some goofy gadget that guesses your weight...

However, the Quick Launch bar is typically scaled back and can be a direct reflection of a person's abilities, work habits and interests.

Disclaimer: I'm not a regular Mac user so I'm not sure how this translates...

So Here Is My Quick Launch Bar (moving from bottom to top):

  • Desktop
  • Vista Window Manager
  • VPN access to work server
  • External Hard Drive (used to back up personal files)
  • Excel File (password protected: List of all my passwords for work and personal use).
  • SyncToy 2.0 (excellent free tool for syncing folders on computer or even to external sources).
  • Outlook 07
  • Windows Live Messenger (love the new look)
  • Blu (sweet Twitter client)
  • IE7 (can't wait for IE8 - even though I rarely ever use IE anymore)
  • Firefox 3 (my default browser - with the FoxMarks extension I can keep faves synced across all computers)
  • Safari 4 (cool looking - just not using it much)
  • Zune (sweetness pure and simple - subscription plan is the only way to go)
  • Windows Media Player (how did that get in there? I need to delete that since Zune handles all that stuff for me...)
  • (next six) My most used CS4 Apps (Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash and the Flask media encoder are my core)
  • Work files (located in My Documents and synced with the server for backup purposes)
  • Personal files (outside My Documents - synced with my external hard drive for backup purposes)
  • Recycle Bin (for easy disposal of my trash :)
OK - Your turn - show me yours...

05 March 2009


Here we go. workshops for 2009.

Currently sitting in Kem Meyer's workshop now called Less Clutter. Less Noise. to match the title of her soon to be released book (official website).

Great stuff that every Communications Director (or person in charge of stuff like that at your church) should hear: Like how to start with a plan and develop a communication strategy before throwing up a website or loading up your shotgun with promotional print pieces.

I'm lucky that I get to work with Kem and benefit from the framework she has developed and champions at our church.

You gotta get here for this at some point this year.

04 March 2009

Keep Up Microsoft!

I downloaded a sweet new Twitter client the other day called Blu by thirteen23. I got ready to install it and saw that I needed .NET 3.5 before it would install correctly.

So I hit the button to download and install .NET 3.5 and in the process saw this interesting graphic warning.

Download complete. You can now disconnect from the Internet.
Now I understand what's at the heart of the message. If you really wanted to disconnect and complete the install offline, it's possible to do so. But in this day and age, the statement itself is almost comical.

"Do what?"

"Disconnect from the Internet?"

"Doesn't that mean certain death? Don't I slowly start fading away if I do that?"

I'm sure people still have dial up and this makes a bit more sense to them. But the world is more and more "connected" every day. We don't disconnect our computers. If I pull out my network cable, wireless takes over and I'm still "connected" - even if I'm sitting on my couch watching TV.

It's almost like saying, "You've just been saved. Feel free to disconnect from Jesus."

Just saying...get your head in the game Microsoft!

03 March 2009

"I Don't Ever Wanna Believe"

I was listening to the latest album from the All American Rejects on the way home from lunch today and finally had a chance to listen to some of the words.

The song "Believe" came on, and all I could hear and focus on was this:

I don’t ever wanna believe
I don’t ever wanna believe yeah
That when we die
That we all leave
I realize the song is highly relational. He's wishing that death would not separate love - obvious by the lines:
I don’t ever wanna let go
I hope that you see yeah
That there’s a part of you that’s left inside of me
But the chorus is a haunting reminder to me that many people out there are running around with their heads cut off as if to say, "I don't want to believe that when we die we all leave."

Finding the Hook
However, we know the truth - that when we die - we all do leave. We also understand the eternal ramifications of that statement. So how do we tell them this without scaring them? How do we let them know that there is amazingly good news among the bad? Granger Community Church you do it like this:

Sex For Sale
In keeping with the topics that people are talking about, the next series will be on sex.

There probably isn't an easier series to invite people to and an easier topic to sit through than a sex series. It affects every person in the world - regardless what their spiritual persuasion.

And the cool thing about the sex series...

Once they're here - they'll hear about Jesus.

And just maybe, instead of leaving the service singing, "I don't wanna believe..." They'll be singing, "I might wanna believe..."