The New Church Website is Live

new website is live

screenshot of Living Table Dashboard behind the new website, with "Check it out!" across the center and a cartoon portrait of Erika on the right

Living Table has a new, custom built, accessible website. Check it out!

2 comments

Intro

Welcome to the new church website. Earlier this year, I met with Living Table’s Council to discuss prototypical and expected website visitors to this site, to include church members, New Branches folks, denominational entities, neighborhood organizations, and the public. Council discussed what they understand to be the reasons different visitors may be reading anything on this website, and the new design responds to all of that.

Overview of the Site

Right now, this new church website is ready to receive more rich content! As the blog posts pour in, the site will remain clean and easy to navigate, while the complexity of the blog posts beneath the surface grows. Every blog post becomes its own little web page, with a URL, something that can be shared, something that Google can present to anyone in the world asking a question that is answered in that post. The site is optimized for search engines. Start thinking of your future community announcements as blog posts, for example, because they will be so, and you can share and engage with them anywhere.

Also! The newsletter will soon be compiled in the website dashboard as well. I am working on a way to fully automate the newsletter itself actually, which will pull the week’s blog posts into an email, which the website itself will send (using the Google Mail API). The labor will be writing the blog posts, which I have hopefully made pretty smooth. I invite Pastor Rachael to leave a comment below on her experience making blog posts here on the new site after she has had a chance to use it.

The post you are reading right now is one that I made using the new system. If anyone (I’m looking at you, staff and authorized users) is curious about how I did something in this post which you want to also do in a post you are making, just go into LT BLog Posts and hit “edit” on this post. There, you can see what I did and copy what you like. Make sure you don’t actually edit this post please, but feel free to use any little style tricks you might find helpful here.

About Content

What I have learned about Living Table is that certain aspects of your identity really make you stand out to others. Put differently, there are reasons people stick around here, good reasons, generally having to do with your commitment to trying to be inclusive and welcoming, and your come-as-you-are authenticity.

That translates into a website design that prioritizes accessibility and content that features your stories, your voices, your ministries. The way to share narratives of this nature in the modern era is through a blog-based website, and so I have built you one.

Slightly Tech-ish Stuff

The site is built on a WordPress base, but it is very much a custom solution. This is a lot of custom code and programmed functionality. WordPress uses its php, which is most of the code, but I have also done some specific elements using javascript, and a little bit of jquery. This site also does not use WordPress blog posts, but, rather, what are called custom post types, which start as custom fields and end up getting passed through hook elements into block elements, in order to result in a formatted, custom post on the frontend.

I have also heavily relied on dynamic content to make a website system that gives authorized users (i.e. staff, and designated others) simple access to make their own blog posts. I made it simple, because I don’t want anyone to be limited by complicated technology or having to learn how to use a complicated system. So, in this system, users log in through the Employee Portal next to a happy little tree, and they simply enter a title, an excerpt, and their text, along with a properly captioned image, and the machine of the website will make it go everywhere that it needs to go, and many places on the site will update dynamically (they don’t have to do anything but make the post in the custom post system).

You can see the little training video I made for them, to see how beautifully plain and simple it is “under the hood” for them to be able to make posts. Anyone can do this. Again, this is for the use of church staff and designated others, the people who make the public posts and newsletters, but it is simple so that they can tell the stories, events, and ministries of all of you. In other words, this should result in a lot of what makes Living Table special becoming much more public facing, which is a good thing.

Staff Demo Video 1: Making Posts (7.3 min)


This is a link to a YouTube Video made for staff and designated others on how to use the new website.

Staff Demo Video 2: More About Images (3.8 min)


This is a link to a YouTube Video made for staff and others on how to compress and caption images for the new website.


That’s it. As you can see, the training to use the new website takes about 11 minutes. This is so that Council can choose who can make what posts, and so communication between and among everyone will be easier and better.

Wondering Whether the Site is Done?

Yeah no. It’s not. This is a solid beta release. I don’t love releasing things in beta, but I really wanted the new site to be live in order to use Google to share Living Table’s Advent news. What beta means in tech-speak is that in-house testing is done, and things are ready for real world testing, but there may be bugs and there is still some missing content. I don’t think there is anything major, but I’m sure there are style elements I have not fully pinned down. I will get to them in the coming weeks. I think it’s worth it to have gone live for Advent.

“Do You Want Feedback?”

Yes and no. Let me spell that out for the sake of clarity.

  • broken link or anything not accessible on the website – yes, tell Erika that
  • broken link in someone’s blog post – sure, tell the author of that blog post by commenting on the exact blog post
  • you want to contribute content – that’s not feedback but pretty much all relevant content is encouraged, yes. Talk to Pastor Rachael with your idea. If it involves me whipping up a new blog category (for example) we can do that.
  • you don’t like something about the site – no, that feedback does not make sense at this late point. This site is a result of more than 150 hours of skilled labor, which came after discussions with Council and church staff about what the site needed to accomplish, combined with my expertise.
  • you found a typo – congrats, a cookie for you, but I’d prefer to not hear about it. The site is in beta and you might indeed find a typo. So will I, sans unsolicited feedback.

If You Just Skimmed Down Here, Do This Part!

Browse the blog! Visit the “Meet Staff” section to get to know those folks anew. The “About Us” pages on Living Table’s past, present and future are, for the most part, forthcoming. They are very important and I hope they will be available soon. Pastor Rachael is asking some small groups of folks with different entry points into the Living Table story to compose them. I also wrote for you a page for prospective visitors which you can check out too. There is an intentionally conversational tone in that post, by the way.

Also! Did you notice the social share buttons? They are at the bottom of every page. You can share the page or post you are looking at on social media or by email. Go ahead – Click on them and try it out. You should share the blog posts that will be coming from this community. This is how you can share who you are. If you don’t share your stories, how will they ever be known?

Mostly, the blog is where new content will flow. Go to the home page and scroll down. You’ll see a sort of magazine layout of the most recent posts. You can slso browse the blog through the main categories from the site menu. Remember, the new site was just born, so the blog might not seem interesting if you are viewing it on day one, but very soon it will be the place to look for the latest news. That is the “dynamic content” I keep talking about – it will update itself with new content as it flows in. Next time you look at the website, it should be different because there will be new posts, new content, more to read and with which to engage. Enjoy. Share. Contribute. Leave comments. This is your website.

P.S.

As I tweak the site in the coming weeks, tracking down loose ends with styling and such, I also plan to make a few short videos (probably about 3 minutes long each) explaining website accessibility (which is about inclusion) and website speed, as they each pertain to your new website. I won’t make them too tech-ish, but some folks like this kind of info and both topics are important. I will spell them out a bit so you will have the knowledge and rationale for some things that perhaps you expect to see on a website and find they are absent from this one. Spoiler alert: It’s probably intentional, either for speed or access reasons. I will post these in the Tech News section of the blog. More soon.

A Screenshot for Posterity

Note: Clicking on the image below will open the image in a new browser tab. The image is a full page scroll down screenshot of the Living Table website as it looked at launch on November 25, 2022, showing numerous text and image headers, photos and graphics, and grid layout for blog posts.


an entry into the time capsule

An Update with Good news

I just received the approval email from Google Ad Grants this morning. I will be working on making the most of this program, including getting the help of a Marketing student who is certified in Google Ads program usage, to help make the most of this. In the meantime, I have redone my initial post for first time visitors, with some broader language geared towards a public readership.

You can and should Read and Comment on this New Landing Page for Prospective Visitors.

About Erika Sanborne

Erika Sanborne is the website developer and administrator for Living Table. In addition to web development, she produces digital graphics, videos, animated explainers, and portraiture work. Her other hats include: long-time math and psychological science educator, ordained UCC clergy, disabled veteran who is for peace, disability justice advocate, population health and disability policy researcher, and sociology PhD candidate.

To share this Tech News

post from Erika

Use the Share Buttons below!

2 thoughts on “The New Church Website is Live”

  1. Overall, I like the new format. But some of us folks with vision issues have a hard time reading white text on a dark background. Titles and such are fine in white-on-dark, but large blocks of text are difficult for me to read. I could use Windows Accessibility settings, but they blow EVERYTHING away and my vision isn’t quite that bad.

    Is there any way you could offer a user-selected alternate color set, at least for large text blocks? This bottom section of the page (from Musical Notes / Pastoral Notes down) is what I am thinking of: uses your theme colors, but dark-on-white text.

    Reply
    • Hi John, Thanks for commenting. I’m still refining the website, and I plan on making a fuller blog post about accessibility when it’s done. But I can make a briefer comment now to address some of what you mention.

      I hear that you prefer dark text on white background. This website uses mostly white text on dark background because overall it is most accessible for the most users. Specifically, this combination reduces eye strain when the correct contrast ratio is maintained. There is an online tool that you can use to look at the accessibility and contrast ratios on a website that assesses these features. [This is the WAVE tool.] These colors were chosen in order to meet WCAG accessibility standards.

      I am working on text spacing and size, which might be a factor in your experience. I just made a webpage today that has better text spacing and which is more accessible. The rest of the site will flow more like this one page soon. Do you find this page any easier to read?

      Erika

      Reply

Leave a Comment