Website: Case Study on a Parish Weblog

I maintain the parish website at http://parish.queenofangelschicago.org/. Here’s a summary of the website strategy & structure, some stats on the site, and some thinking for the future.

Underlying strategy

  • The site launched in the Spring of 2004 after a few months of planning and development
  • There were a couple of main impetuses for the site– one was to have all of the great content from the weekly parish publication (The Guide) available on the web (this has been successful) and the other was to allow any ministry to publish their own content to the web as well (less successful)
  • In support of the “ministries can publish” strategy, I conducted a number of training sessions at the school after we launched the site. Some ministries attended. The Peace & Justice Committee, http://www.peaceandjusticechicago.com/,  were probably the most excited and they maintained a site for a while. The Respect Life Committee published for a while as well
  • Another successful site was for the Athletic Committee, http://www.chicagoknights.com/. They have stopped publishing to the site as well
  • I think one reason why few groups publish on their own is because they are so well-represented in The Guide (and therefore on the Parish homepage). So, I think the strategy was actually flawed and not the execution. It’s really too much to expect entities to maintain their own sites in a volunteer environment. They are well served with the other element of the strategy (i.e. publishing to The Guide = publishing to the web).

Underlying technology

  • I created the site myself using TypePad. I am providing the logins in the mailed version of this email for the sake of security.
  • The top banner was created by parishioner Tim Irvine
  • TypePad costs $15/ month
  • I get a copy of The Guide every week. I cut up the articles (Nothing Is Impossible With God, Announcements, and Mass Schedule & This Week at Queen of Angels). If there is a big story, I pull it out of Announcements and make it separate.  In the main, I publish as soon as I get The Guide– I’d say 70% of the time. I do lapse every once in a while and have to publish 2 at a time
  • The URL for the site is a subdomain of the school Web site:  http://parish.queenofangelschicago.org/
  • TypePad generates RSS feeds for the site. These are underutilized by parishioners– there is room for improvement here. Here’s a good primer on RSS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/help/3223484.stm
  • There is room in our $15 TypePad account for an infinite amount of subsites and URLs

Statistics
Here are some hard numbers about our website:

  • There are close to 800 pages of content on the Parish website. You can browse the entire archives here: http://parish.queenofangelschicago.org/archives.html
  • This includes every single word published in The Guide for the last 3 years
  • We currently average 73 unique visitors per day and the view an average of two pages each. In the overall world of the internet, this is not a lot of people, but in our world of Catholic parishes, it’s actually pretty good. That’s like 511 visitors to the Parish per week!
  • We get some web stats from a free service called Site Meter, www.sitemeter.com. You can get the stats just by clicking on the colored box in the left column or go here: http://www.sitemeter.com/?a=stats&s=sm3queenofangels
  • We also get some stats inside the TypePad tool
  • Judging from the referrers (i.e. the link that people clicked on to get to our site), a high percentage of our visitors are from search engine traffic (as opposed to parishioners or other people who know about the site and reach it by typing the URL into the browser or by a browser bookmark
  • We rank #1 for the search term, “Fr. Jim Kaczorowski”, for instance: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=father+jim+kaczorowski
  • We also use Google Analytics for web stats: www.google.com/analytics. See the attached chart for the most popular content in the last week (highly representative of what I’ve seen through time). Here’s the list:
  1. Homepage
  2. Masses
  3. Contacts
  4. General Parish Info
  5. History
  6. Book a Wedding
  7. Links
  8. Nothing is Impossible With God

Queen of Angels Parish, Chicago

Teacher Websites Training Followup: How To Improve Your Classroom Website in Less Than An Hour

Created a one-page follow-up to extensive training materials for teachers who have yet to make the most of their TypePad publishing system.

I’ve found that as time passes after training, the people who did not immediately start publishing need a spark. The 24-page, customized publishing manual is of little use to people who forgot their password.This short, breezy page helps people get re-engaged with their websites.

Falk-PLI Website

Created website for northern Indiana engineering and surveying firm.

  • Client’s existing promotional video placed on homepage inside Flash
  • News section based on TypePad, allowing client to easily update the site and leading to improved search engine optimization
  • Trained client on how to update website
  • Project included copywriting

Falk-PLI

Fabrile Gallery E-Commerce Site

Sourced, set up, and launched the Fabrile Gallery Webstore for retail glass art gallery based on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.

  • Met with client to determine needs, interest, skills, hardware, and software and researched leading e-commerce packages
  • Site is completely based on the Yahoo! Merchant Solutions e-commerce platform,  making it easy and inexpensive for client to learn and maintain the system
  • Highly recommended if you want a non-technical person to maintain the store after launch
  • Set up all product categories and populated the store database with products from client’s FileMaker Pro
  • Created custom, easy-to-follow documentation and trained the client onsite until they were comfortable with the system
  • Used the built-in weblog tools from Yahoo! Merchant Solutions to create an artist  weblog for search engine optimization, including info on Fantasy figurine artist Amy Brown

Andy Kane Art

Created a simple, quick website for a friend and a great artist, Andy Kane Art.

  • Site is built on WordPress and uses the Hemingway theme. Using flexible, feature-filled WordPress themes allows you to stand on the shoulders of giants and still make custom sites that meet specific needs
  • Uses the WordPress Contact Form plugin– very simple to configure, but places in-line styles on every site page. Great for a quickie site like this
  • Installed the FAlbum WordPress plugin,  which uses the Flickr API to deliver images from a specific set in my Flickr account. The result are easy-to-update photo albums that are embedded into the main website but served offsite.
  • Encourages people who’ve purchased art from Andy Kane to upload to Flickr and tag with “andykane“– using free, offsite tools to develop community, build interest, and increase search engine optimization
  • Uses a free TypePad weblog to publish Andy’s poetry book, American Radio Waves. TypePad design mimics color, font, and other styles of the main site w/o needing a new WordPress install. The right tool for the right job

The image “http://juggernautco.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/andykaneart.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Catherine Cook School Teacher Websites, Moodle Installation, and All-School Calendar

Created a complete website system for the Catherine Cook School in Chicago. Includes:

  • Over 50 teacher websites based on the TypePad weblog content management system.
  • All of the teacher sites run off of the same template, which reduces admin maintenance while assuring that each website has the CCS website look & feel
  • Teacher sites allow for customization at the blog level– teachers are able to put in the own header, subhead, “my links”, categories, and so on
  • RSS feeds automatically served by FeedBurner, making it easy for parents to understand RSS and subscribe through various services
  • Installed and configured the Moodle Learning Management System with the school’s look & feel
  • Set up Google Calendar so that everyone can keep up with the many events from Pre-K to 12
  • Created OPML file of feeds for all teacher sites for easy importing into RSS readers so that parents, teachers, and administrators can keep up with the whole school

Ccs_asa