Riverbluff Church Web Site Review

November 15, 2005 by

This week’s peer review tackles another web site. Share your feedback and suggestions in the comments.




Riverbluff Church
Charleston, S.C.
Created by Gene Smith
Riverbluff Church is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention and has a weekly attendance of over 700. They offer a contemporary service and try to be seeker-friendly.

The site is in need of some changes and Gene is looking for feedback on what should be changed before he launches into a redesign. He is the sole web developer and does it on a volunteer basis.


  • What do you like about the site?
  • What works with the design/content/writing?
  • Is everything easy to find?
  • How would you improve the site?
Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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8 Responses to “Riverbluff Church Web Site Review”

  • Joshua
    November 15, 2005

    * What do you like about the site?
    I like that the address and phone number are front and center. There are so many sites I simply abandon for lack of this information on the main page.
    * What works with the design/content/writing?
    It is very clean, colors are a bit dark however. Well-written, though probably confusing to many seekers.
    * Is everything easy to find?
    Navigation is generally clean. Some of the names are too branded and lacking meaningful description for those unfamiliar with the church. Also, please don’t ever have a primary link (1st Serve) connecting to a MS Word document, or any document. Convert it to PDF and provide an intermediary page explaining what I’m about to look at.
    * How would you improve the site?
    Refocus to better appeal to seekers. I didn’t see anything about what to expect in the services. Cut down on some of the churchianity terms.

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  • brad
    November 15, 2005

    The Weather Channel module is a nice touch, but on the homepage for a visitor, its space that could be better utilized for other ventures. Perhaps for a customized page for members, but you only get some much space to use. Find something more critical for that small box.

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  • Justin Broome
    November 15, 2005

    This is by far the best page that has come up in the peer review in my time here! The code is clean! They use CSS! Almost every page is uniform! (The Small group page is different than the others and needs to be adjusted to be uniform to everything else.)
    I’m actually OK with the color scheme. It’s not hard to read, and everything matches. I’m a stickler on things matching from page to page within a site.
    “Making Disciples… Changing Lives” in the header bar is virtually invisible.
    On the bottom of the homepage you have the icon for “click here to search the bible at biblegateway.” I would build in a text input box on the bottom of the left side navigation menu and link the “submit” button to bible gateway. Allow people to enter their search term on your site, and have it link back to Bible Gateway for the answer. Click Here for directions on how to do it. It’s really easy and it’s a neat addition to a church website.
    Minor request: put a small spacer (maybe 20 pixels) on the top of the site so it bumps it down a little from the top edge.
    Seriously, this site is in GREAT shape. Perfect? There’s no such thing as a perfect site, but this one is really good.
    Keep up the good work!

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  • boyink
    November 16, 2005

    Actually I think the root design is solid enough to keep while some time is spent focusing on some content/functionality issues:
    “Home” isn’t consistently linked back to the parent home page.
    Small Groups doesn’t have an obvious link back to the parent home page, kids site does. Establish a “Home” page and consistently link to the same page with that word. Other home pages should be qualified: “Kids Home”, “Small Groups Home”, etc.
    If you’re going to link to a Word doc (or any other non-web page), please tell me that – I hate surprises.
    Don’t include links to Word docs right in the middle of sub-navigation (1st Serve), it’s a “one of these things is not like the other game” for the user. Instead put a web page in there that describes what “1st Serve” is, and then offer me a link – labelled as opening a Word file.
    Consider PDF versions instead of or in addition to Word, as the penetration of the viewing software is higher.
    Abolish “click here” wording – your links are made obvious by the styling, and you can tighten up content by removing the “click here” text.
    Footer is right justified on home page, and sorta in the right third on small groups site.
    Some main nav items open in new windows, and some don’t – possibly confusing, and not accessible. I was looking at the Calendar, and trying to figure out why there was no navigation back to the parent site, and then realized it had opened a new window.
    Develop a strategy for window management, and be consistent about it – non web docs (Word files, PDF files) should open in new windows as users will “close” them rather than use the back button. Other web pages should stay in the same window – let users manage their own windows.

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  • Nathan Smith
    November 16, 2005

    I really like that it’s table-less, but it seems like they can’t make up their mind if they’re using XHTML or HTML 4.01. There are several self-terminating lines, ending in “/>” but this is only necessary in XHTML, and is not the Doctype they’re using.
    I’d recommend going all the way to XHTML, since there’s nothing about the site that necessitates having it in an older Doctype. Also, there are 26 HTML errors, and 2 CSS errors. More on that here:
    –› HTML Errors
    –› CSS Errors
    All in all, it’s very close to being a very solid site, but just needs a little bit of work, and needs to get over it’s split personality of XHTML / HTML. :)

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  • Garrett
    November 16, 2005

    Overall it’s a great looking site. Frankly I can’t stand any outside modules on a site. When I want weather I go to a weather site, when I want church information I go to a church site.
    Great site

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  • LJ
    November 17, 2005

    ‘A pictures says more than 1000 words…’. On the site every page has a picture, but the pictures have no additional information. It seems to be standard stock photo’s. I think you can show the ‘look and feel’ of the church more than with text by placing a picture of every activity (kids, baptism, welcome, etc..)

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  • Gene Smith
    November 21, 2005

    Wouldn’t you know it; I get a Peer Review and the day it goes up, my computer goes down! Well, back up now, thanks to some unbelievably gracious and generous people.
    Thank you for all of your comments, and I will take them all to heart on the redesign. This site really outgrew my original design for it (yes, poor planning on my part), and is almost becoming to large to manage on a volunteer basis. I plan to make the redesign incorporate some custom-built CMS technology to help with that.
    The HTML/XHTML schizophrenia came in as I was learning XHMTL. When I use the XHTML DOCTYPE I get some display errors that I haven’t had the time to address yet (and since I’m redesigning, I probably won’t), so I just put the old DOCTYPE back in and left the self-closing tags in place. The new site will be fully XHTML/CSS compliant before it is launched (many months from now!).
    I really appreciate pointing out the “Churchianity” when it comes up. I have a difficult time focusing from a seeker’s perspective. I really didn’t anticipate the ministry leaders’ growing use of the site, and have ended up patching them in – thus some of it looks patched in, and the seeker-focus has left the home page. For the redesign, I’m considering an approach like New Spring, or North Point Community Church, where the user can select which way they want to go, as long as I can do that selection page search engine friendly and completely table-free. On the otherhand, I may just go with something completely separate for the church members/ministry leaders.
    Either way, your comments have helped me keep the seeker-friendly focus, and I thank you.
    Gene Smith

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