“I am Episcopalian,” a site containing videos of Episcopalians explaining why they are a members of The Episcopal Church, has been on the Web since Ash Wednesday last. In principle, it is lovely piece of PR, though I don’t know if Episcopalians or seekers view its videos more.
I do have some criticisms of the site, however—five of them, in fact. First, it is left to the visitor to figure out just what the site is all about. There is a good deal of text on the home page—the site is basically a one-page site, with pop-up Flash video windows—but none of that text explains what content is available or how to access it. It is left to the visitor to figure out that clicking on one of the pictures at the top of the page will display a video of an Episcopalian explaining why he or she is Episcopalian. Perhaps the site is meant as a test of one’s cleverness and is intended to discourage dullards from discovering our church. More likely, graphic design simply got in the way of clarity.
My second criticism is that there is no way to search the site. The videos display the name of the person talking, but the site provides no easy way to bookmark a particular video, find a video contributed by a friend, or find a video dealing with a particular issue. The site does provide HTML code to embed each video on a Web page, information which, to most visitors, is likely to seem inscrutable.
Next, the site contains a graphic labeled “Give to the Episcopal Church,” which links to a page where you can contribute to various Episcopal funds. Is this really appropriate on a site that is—at least I assume it is intended to be—an evangelistic site? After telling the visitor why Episcopalians are Episcopalians, shouldn’t the next message be “join us,” rather than “give us money?”
Fourth, the site contains links cryptically labeled “upload,” “share,” and “continue.” These facilitate, respectively, uploading a video; sharing the site via Facebook, Digg, Delicious, or Reddit—one has to recognize the icons one sees upon mousing over “share”—or, amazingly, going to the home page of The Episcopal Church. The function of these links has to be discovered, as it is not made explicit.
This brings me to my fifth and final criticism of “I am Episcopalian,” which is the real reason for this post and the source of its title. One can get to the site using the URL http://www.iamepiscopalian.org. This is the most likely method of arrival if one is actually looking for it. One is also redirected to the site from http://www.episcopalchurch.org or http://dfms.org (the URL I often use because doing so requires so few keystrokes). Is this really necessary? Cannot there be a link and promo for “I am Episcopalian” on the Episcopal Church’s home page? There used to be a clearer link to the home page of The Episcopal Church at http://www.iamepiscopalian.org, but now we only have the link “continue,” which is, I suggest, less than intuitive, particularly if you intended to go to “I am Episcopalian.” I suspect that some visitors looking for the Episcopal Church Web site never figure out how to get there. In particular, last week’s Episcopal Church ad in USA Today gave the Web address of the church as “www.episcopalchurch.org.” Is it not confusing that this will take people to “I am an Episcopalian?”
So, enough already. It’s time to allow people trying to get to the Episcopal Church Web site actually to get there directly. The church can promote “I am Episcopalian,” but it shouldn’t hijack unsuspecting surfers who are trying to go somewhere else.