Launching the New

Yesterday we launched the new after almost a year of planning, developing and populating. It has been a roller coaster ride to say the least as we began the journey to build a new site from a brand new perspective. I want to give you all a look under the hood at some of our intentionality behind the site as we began this process and have come to this point of launch.  Here are some of the core functional shifts of this new website:

  1. Guest Experience - through our Analytics tracking we were able to find that 40% of our traffic were first time visitors from the San Antonio area. We wanted to optimize the site for them first, thinking through what the guest will need to experience from checking out our website to attending a service. We established this through simplifying our homepage experience while also amplifying the first impression through the motion graphics and creating a clear primary call to action to Plan Your Visit to one of our worship services. 
  2. MultiSite Infrastructure - one of the biggest changes in the life of our church is moving from a 1 campus mega church to a MultiSite church. With this shift organizationally our website infrastructure had to change and we needed to create an infrastructure that communicated the uniqueness of all of our campuses in a unified way. We established this through the campus selection at the top of the website with identical primary navigation for each campus. We are eager to see how people navigate the site in this new way!
  3. Simplicity - being a church of 20,000+ with multiple campuses and services in multiple languages both online and in person is naturally complicated.  While we were a 1 campus church our existing website had grown to over 300 pages and that is after we attempted to simplify it a couple of years ago. It happens and I know that what we are launching with will likely expand in the coming weeks and months. We were able to simplify the site significantly from 300 pages to 60 at launch. That came with many arm wrestling sessions, but we got there and believe this simplified navigation will significantly enhance the website experience for both our visitors and our members.
  4. Database Integration - this was the biggest challenge for me. In the past I have worked around our database, but I grew up and came to the understanding that we needed to prioritize database integration with our forms, our group connections, and our giving.  Honestly, this is where we still need to work moving forward as we must create a seamless experience between our website and our database to best engage our congregation in the most connected way. I think we took some great steps forward though in this area.
  5. Unified Language - in the past each ministry area submitted content and we edited for grammatical changes, but this time we hired a copy writer to rewrite every piece of content using unified language and establishing a conversational tone to every word on the site. This might be the most under noticed aspect to the site, but possibly the most effective addition that we made.  

There are probably many other details that I'm leaving out, but these are the first 5 things that come to mind as I think through the past year and look at the site that just launched. The truth is, the site is only launching and this is just the beginning. We already have a list of updates that we will begin working on tomorrow and a list of new developments that we will start working on next week. Websites should always live in a state of "Beta."  So, our website is not done, but I am glad to announce that it has officially launched!

I would love to know your thoughts and any questions that you might have about the site.

I want to also say a special thank you to the Innovation and MarCom teams at CBC and to PlainJoe Studios who did an incredible job building out this site together. Thank you to everyone involved in this project and to CBC for entrusting my leadership with this critical ministry resource.  

Small Groups, Multisite, and More with Randy Craft

This week on the Social Media Church Podcast we had special guest, Randy Craft. Randy is the Groups Pastor and Local Outreach Pastor at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN. Randy was also on staff at Saddleback Church for 14 years. Jay and Randy discuss small groups, social media, and current apps/tech that help make Randy’s day more productive. 

Don't miss Randy's great insight on small groups and multisite! Check it out now!

The Future of TV

A lot has happened in the world of the television in the past 10 years. Consider these advancements:

  • The Television Itself - we've gone from projection TVs to Plasma, then LCD, and now LED.  Look at how inexpensive they have become as well.
  • Connections - we used to connect devices to the TV through Coax and RCA,  then Composite, and now HDMI.  
  • High Definition - we were introduced to HDTV and now many levels of High Definition. 
  • Devices - the devices have dramatically changed from VCRs to DVDs, to Blue Ray and now Connected TV Devices (Roku, Apple TV, etc.) steaming video from the cloud
  • DVR - remember when we recorded shows on VCRs or actually watched live TV?  Now we just DVR and fast forward through commercials watching whenever we want.  I can actually now record a show from my iPhone when I'm not home.
  • On-Demand -  I think this might be the biggest game changer with cable offering On-Demand along with subscription services like Hulu and Netflix being able to watch whatever you want whenever you want.
All of these advancements are incredible and I think bringing more clarity to the future of TV.  I think what we are seeing is that our TV is transitioning from what used to be a completely different experience from our computer to a universal one.  Our TV is essentially becoming a large computer monitor for us to engage with.
Think about it this way: you cell phone is now a computer in your pocket, your laptop or desktop is a device you use when sitting down at a desk or table and your TV is a screen that you watch while sitting on a couch or in a living room.  When you think from this perspective your computer in your pocket (smart phone) is useful for quick messages and interactions, your laptop or desktop is good for focused productive work, and your television is for consuming longer form video content often with others.
So what does this mean and how does this change things?
  1. Our television becomes a computer.  This is where Apple TV, Roku, X-Box come in connecting our TVs to the internet.  I think we will see more of these devices just built into the TV units themselves. There will also be no need for wires as they will connect to the internet through wireless internet.  Connecting to the internet allows us to not only bring in content, but also send out content (game changer).
  2. Our smart phones become a remote/controller.  They actually do this already, but I think you will see this become more of a commonplace rather than something that just nerds do.  Gaming will also be a big part of this and I also envision our phones often serving as the game controllers.  Think about 10 people gathering in a living room to play a game and they all have an interactive controller in their hands.
  3. Our tablets become a second monitor.  If you're like most people you're already using Social Media at the same time you watch TV.  Tablets offer the screen size to not just serve as a viewing screen but create a very interactive social experience alongside your video viewing experience on your TV.
So what happens to cable?
Nothing.  Time Warner actually integrates already with Roku and we'll see the same thing begin to develop with other cable providers and connected TV devices.  Cable subscriptions will function as an app so that we can still stream live programs and events.  So no more old cable boxes to deal with!
What does this mean for the church?
Ever thought your church should be on TV?  Now every church can be!  You will only need a camera and an internet connection.  I think you should invest in a lot more, but the reality is that every church will be able to stream easily to living rooms around the world instantaneously.  The opportunity already exists, but will become much easier and available very soon!
One of the exciting developments that I see developing is an opportunity for a combined home church/ multi-site movement.  I see churches creating multi-site experiences designed more for the living room with 15-20 people gathered than the 150-200 seat venue.
So what do you think about the future of the TV?  Do you agree or disagree with me?