When Jennifer Robinson first began to look for Quakers, she did what most seekers do: she went online. There were two meetings near her home. One had a well-maintained website with lots of information; the other did not. She visited the one with the better website. Surprisingly, it turned out that the other meeting was her spiritual home. When Jennifer joined the committee working on upgrading the website, she kept this in mind. A website needs to attract seekers and serve the community itself.
Today, Gunpowder Friends Meeting’s site is the most extensive Cloud site yet created. Here are some tips from Jennifer on what worked well during their process of decision making:
- Know what features the meeting needs. Through careful research, the committee had developed a list of criteria that the new website should have when Jennifer learned about the Quaker Cloud at the 2013 FGC Gathering. Almost all of the criteria matched, they wouldn’t need to rely on a webdeveloper, there would be ongoing support, and the site would be easy to update themselves when changes needed to be made. In addition, there were features that were unique to Quakerism, such as sharing minutes with other Quakers.
- Make sure that there are people with the time and attention to learn the software. After FGC trained the administrators on how to use the Cloud, Jennifer made the website a personal project. “I’m not a technological person,” Jennifer says. In spite of that, she put most of the content up in a month. As she explored and played with the software, she initially found some of the design too rigid for her taste. As she went deeper, she learned that many of the choices that had gone into programming them that way were well thought out for meetings’ needs. She came to see the structure as “a beautiful simplicity.”
- Research your content. A lot of care went into the best way to present the Quaker way on the web. Gunpowder paid special attention to information for newcomers. After much exploration, committee member Tracy Haidar reached out to Britain Yearly Meeting and obtained permission to use their content for their “More on Quakers” page.
- Your meeting will need to create new policy. With the upcoming rollout of the directory feature, the meeting had to create some policy around privacy and opting out. The website committee has erred on the side of caution in terms of making photos of people only accessible to logged-in members until the meeting comes to unity about a photo policy.
- Be open to the possibilities. Committees will also be able to take advantage of private collaboration space on the Cloud. In addition, the meeting archivist is very interested in selecting and posting materials on the website, and First Day School is exploring a private portal for children and families, where pictures and discussions can be shared.