Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - On Monday, Internet users will be able to access a newly redesigned website for the Diocese of Lincoln.
“One reason we chose to revise it at this time is the change in technology, as so many people now use phones, tablets and other devices to surf the web,” explained Father Gary Coulter, who serves on the diocesan tribunal and directs Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House among other duties.
Father Coulter is just one member of a sizeable team from the diocese that has been working with Solutio Software in Cheney, Kan. (near Wichita), on redesigning the website.
He continued, “Another reason to update the site is that Bishop Conley wants to use technology and social media as part of the New Evangelization. Therefore, we wanted a website that allowed for possible future expansion, such as blogging or podcasting.”
Solutio Software is a Catholic company that focuses on serving the Church through web site development. Bishop Conley had experienced their talents while he was a priest for the Diocese of Wichita and Solutio was designing their diocesan website.
For owner Al Jirak, the project had a personal angle as well: his wife is from Lincoln, and they are frequently in the state visiting relatives.
“It is personally gratifying to see this particular site come alive,” he said.
Jirak’s team worked with representatives from the diocese to set priorities for the site revision.
“We depended on them for feedback throughout the process,” Jirak said.
Sister Mary Kaiser, M.S., who is responsible for updating the education pages on the website, said the “re-skinned” site was developed with end-users in mind.
“They will find drop-down menus, rotating photos and a mobile-friendly design,” she said.
The website uses a new ‘responsive’ design, meaning it can be viewed on various screens, such as computer monitors, smart phones, tablets and other devices. The design automatically shifts - if needed - when the devices are moved.
Bishop Conley gave his input toward the website project as well.
“The bishop had some specific requests, such as have a priests-only section of the site with resources for the clergy, and the possibility to donate online, which corresponds to recent trends in giving patterns,” said Father Coulter.
Menus were reorganized and a good search engine was added to make it easier to find a particular topic or person.
Another goal was to make the website more informative and useful with a regular flow of new content and upcoming events. With 16 different people tasked with updating various sections of the website, this meant Solutio had to come up with a way to make it easy on everybody.
“The staff of the diocese should feel comfortable keeping it up to date,” Jirak assured.
He added, “I really think it breathes life into a site when the people creating the information can place it in directly. It is faster for them and it beckons them to do it more often.”
Also, Bishop Conley will be able to post his homilies, articles, photos and video on the site. Viewers will be invited to share the bishop’s contributions with their family and friends via social media with just a click.
In addition to being easier to navigate and more current, the revised diocesan website is also “less cluttered, more attractive,” according to Father Coulter.
“We wanted to make it beautiful, which was easy using some of the artwork and architecture from around the diocese,” Jirak said.
The design features an image of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of the Diocese of Lincoln. The Monday launch date is, fittingly, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
When the site launches on Monday, users are sure to find some new things that they will appreciate.
“There are some exciting new features coming to the site, like commenting on the Op-Ed articles,” Jirak revealed.
Father Coulter’s favorite new feature is the centralized calendar of diocesan events.
“Anyone, such as parish priests and secretaries, can submit parish events to be listed on our calendar that might be of interest to others in the diocese,” he noted. “As more people submit events, the more it will be a useful resource.”
Sister Mary is particularly happy about one of the back-end features that most people would never even notice.
“The directory portion is now run by a database, which will be much easier to update and keep current,” she explained.
A great deal of effort has gone into the site redesign, and not a few people will draw a sigh of relief when it has successfully launched.
“I won’t be surprised to find some quirks and errors as with any new website,” admitted Father Coulter. “We need everyone’s help to know if a parish has different Mass or confession times, as just one example.”
All this effort is focused on making the website an extremely valuable tool.
“This is only a beginning, not an end,” Father Coulter said. “With people’s feedback, we hope to continue to improve and enhance the website.”
You’ll be able to find the revised website beginning Monday, Dec. 9, at www.lincolndiocese.org. Be sure to bookmark the site and come back often to see updates as they happen.