The relaunch was a months-long project that involved looking at all the efforts of United Church of God in its 20 years and evaluating how best to promote and organize each one. It was a total ground-up software upgrade on the server side, with a new design to complement it on the user’s side. The site now is divided into two major sections—United Church of God and Beyond Today. Read on for a short explanation of the rationale behind the changes to the site and a brief tutorial on how best to use it on page 2.
Why a New Website?
The Internet is constantly shifting in capabilities, browsing habits and tons of other factors. We like to stay as current as we can—so that we’re ready to give an answer when people are searching for God’s truths. Namely, we needed to make sure our site was usable for someone browsing it on a mobile device, which is about half of those who visit our site. But we didn’t want just a face-lift, so we’ve thought long and hard about the best way to organize the new site, what it should look like, and how it will function. We wanted a change that can be expanded and improved upon for years to come—with a strong software foundation and thoughtful organization.
What’s New on the Site?
1. New, mobile-friendly responsive design
We’ve redesigned the site from the ground up to make it more accessible on your smartphone, tablet, television or any other device that you use. A responsive design means the site dynamically shifts its layout for whatever size screen you are using at that moment. As mentioned, more than 50 percent of our traffic is from mobile phones and tablets now, so it is important to us that it’s as easy to use the site to find our material on a mobile device as it is for someone on a traditional desktop PC.
2. More deliberate focus on presenting who we are as a Church
For years the Web strategy was to put as much content on your homepage for search engines to find. With advances from search engines this isn’t the case anymore. For that reason, and also in an effort to most logically present who we are to someone trying to find out more about us as a church, the new site moves the Church’s outward-facing gospel-preaching content off of the “United Church of God” section of the website, and onto the Beyond Today section. The UCG section instead has explanations of who we are, what we believe, how we preach the gospel, what to expect if someone were to come to services, a link to find a congregation, links to sermons videos, and a link to our weekly Sabbath webcast. All of this is an intentional change for people who have no previous history with us to find out what we’re about and more easily answer God’s calling.
3. More deliberate focus on presenting the gospel message
As mentioned before, the Church’s media is no longer on the front page, instead being organized under the Beyond Today section of the site. What UCG has produced in its mission to preach the gospel over its two decades—Good News articles, Beyond Today episodes and BT Dailies, short films, booklets, blog posts, archived Vertical Thought issues and even old material such as World News and Prophecy articles—will all be under this section. The goal of this change is to make the gospel message more easily identifiable and found. With the Church section being clearly defined, it’s also more obvious to someone who isn’t familiar with us that we are not just a media organization, we are a body of believers, and vice versa. It’s just a click away to find out more about the organization behind the media.
4. New congregation websites
Along with the other changes, we plan on slowly rolling in our local congregation websites so that they will all reside on UCG.org. That means that all the local congregation pages will be searchable and findable from the main site. Also, all sermons given in local congregations that are posted online will be findable at UCG.org. Perhaps best of all, the interface for maintaining the new local pages will be simpler for local volunteers who maintain them.
5. New members’ website
In the third quarter of the year, we also plan on integrating the members’ site into UCG.org. It will provide a much more seamless experience for our members looking for pertinent member content.
In the weeks since launch, we have gathered statistics for how people are using the site, which have shown that the changes we made are bearing good fruit. See the back page for some of the stats.