USMB launched a new website September 8, 2017, that is intended to serve as an information hub for U.S. Mennonite Brethren.
“We wanted a one-stop-shop for all things MB,” says Don Morris, USMB national director. “I think we’ve done that.”
Morris says, “When the USMB staff and Leadership Board began thinking about what we wanted to accomplish through a new website, it was largely about providing a powerful and highly functional place where people could find just about anything they needed pertaining to our conference, news, church locations, resources, documents, our Confession of Faith and on and on.
“Our new website also gives us the platform we need to continue to provide information and resources about our three core commitments,” says Morris. “It’s easy to use, and we hope as we add more material to the site that it will serve all of us very well into the future.”
Website reflects new branding
The new website (www.usmb.org) is the second facet of a branding initiative that began in May with the unveiling of the new USMB logo, which reflects USMB’s commitment to church multiplication and evangelism, intentional disciple-making and leadership development.
The new, brighter color palette incorporates the color scheme of the new USMB logo and lends a cutting-edge look to the website. Layout is clean and interactive. The website features large photos and dropdown menus that provide easy access to a variety of categories. Pages load quickly, enhancing user experience. These elements combine to create a clean, visually-pleasing and easily navigable experience for users.
USMB worked with Friesen Design, Enid, Oklahoma, to develop the new USMB website as well as a website for Christian Leader, the USMB bimonthly magazine. The company had also designed the new logo.
“Our goal, first and foremost, was to be consistent with the new USMB vision,” says Kevin Friesen, owner of Friesen Design and a member of Enid MB Church. “The site needed to be much more user-friendly and robust in order to better communicate to our USMB family.”
New content, resources
The site now features easier-to-use navigational tools and includes several new features. Large drop-down menus enhance navigation on the new USMB website. These menus show standard page links, images and other stylistic elements that offer the user a more visual experience.
“It was our goal to use these menus to provide a more at-a-glance interface, making the site more user-friendly and efficient,” says Friesen.
The home page includes USMB Now, a news section devoted to USMB updates as well as the most recent articles posted on the Christian Leader website. Visitors can also make online donations and sign-up for USMB electronic newsletters.
The “Find a Church” feature includes an interactive U.S. map showing the five USMB districts. The map takes visitors to sub-pages for each district, and from there, viewers can see a list of USMB congregations for that district and access other information about the districts.
“One of the goals of a new website was to partner with our districts in creating a centralized place for people to go to find relevant information,” says Lori Taylor, USMB web master. “Each of our five districts now has their own sub-site within the larger USMB website, which allows a more user-friendly approach when looking for information at both a district or national level.”
The new resource library has the capability to sort and search. The library can be sorted by type—article, book, video and event—making it more user-friendly.
“We hope to build our library extensively in the next few months,” Taylor says.
A job opportunities module is being developed that will list current job openings and include resumes that can be downloaded. This module will also offer password-protected access to district ministers and church board members to help in their search for potential pastoral staff candidates.
Forum offers place to connect
A forum section is currently in the planning stage and Taylor invites suggestions for possible forum topics. “We are here to serve you, so let us know what would benefit you,” she says. “We hope our forum will be a place for pastors and leaders to connect around a specific topic, ministry position or event,” says Taylor. “We might test this section with our next round of LEAD Cohorts coming in early 2018.”
Taylor encourages visitors to keep checking the USMB website (www.usmb.org) to see the improvements and additions that will be made over the next several months. She welcomes suggestions and feedback. Visitors can leave a comment in the Forum section or email Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We needed a powerful website that can grow with us as we continue to provide resources and connecting points to our pastors and leaders,” Taylor says.
CL website is a first
This website redesign marks the first time that Christian Leader, the USMB bimonthly magazine that also publishes a biweekly e-news digest, has its own website (www.christianleadermag.com). The new USMB website is built on WordPress, an affordable platform that made it possible for CL to have its own website.
“We are excited to have a website that can better serve our online readership,” CL editor Connie Faber says. “This new website includes many of the features our readers have come to expect—the options to print articles and to search the website, archived articles going back to 2008, classified ads and a link to our flip page edition—and some new elements.”
The new CL site makes better use of photographs and dynamic components to enhance the visual elements of the site, creating a stylish and professional appearance. Navigation is improved by easily distinguishable headlines and dropdown menus. Trending stories scroll across the top of the page.
The most recent C-Link news stores are highlighted at the top of the home page. These articles typically change every two weeks, keeping the content fresh with the latest USMB news as well as updates from a variety of USMB partner ministries. C-Link articles can conveniently be sorted by category: local, district, national and global. C-Link opinion pieces are categorized under “Voices.”
Feature department expands, highlights core commitments
The majority of the CL home page highlights the content of the most recent print magazine and is organized by department: feature articles, Body Life news articles and essays and columns.
“We trust the new website will be a valuable resource as the CL continues to tell stories of God’s work in the USMB family and the world,” Faber says.
The feature department, the front-half section that explore issues of faith and life, will continue to focus on topics related to the USMB three core commitments, and it is expanding from three articles to five. In some issues of the magazine, these feature department articles will address a variety of subjects and in other issues the features will zero in on a specific topic.
The addition of two feature articles was prompted by the website redesign, says Faber, and the two additional articles will be published online only.
“This change gives more writers—and hopefully some new writers—the opportunity to use their gifts and to share their insights and expertise,” says Faber. “When the five feature articles deal with a single subject matter, we will be able to more fully delve into the facets of that topic.”
One of the options available on the new website is sorting feature articles by category. The number of categories will grow as feature articles are added; archived articles are currently not categorized. As the CL staff becomes more familiar with this sorting option, the columns and essays may also be categorized to make it easier for readers to read by topic, says Faber.
“One of our objectives with this redesign was that the CL website would clearly and intentionally reflect the USMB core commitments of evangelism and church planting, intentional disciple-making and leadership development,” says Faber. “We hope this website will encourage readers in their faith journey.”