Don't look now... but we've reached the tipping point! Yes, for the first time, Americans now use mobile devices (phones and tablets) more than PC's to access the internet. According to the Pew Internet Project's Research Mobile Technology Fact Sheet, as of 2014: 90% of American adults have a cell phone, 58% of American adults have a smartphone, 32% of American adults own an e-reader, 42% of American adults own a tablet computer, 44% of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn't miss any calls, text messages, or other updates during the night and 29% of cell owners describe their cell phone as "something they can't imagine living without." And these numbers are only going to keep climbing.
Web developers saw this coming, and they are already responding (pun intended) by creating Responsive Web Designs (RWD). "Responsive" design optimizes your content to make viewing and navigation easy no matter what device is being used. A site that is not responsive design may look teeny-tiny to your eye on a phone. Without responsive design the viewer is forced to zoom in and out as well as do all kinds of other positioning contortions to navigate the site.
In some cases, the headings or other content is scrambled or missing. In others, links and drop down menus may cease to function." Most use the term "responsive design: to describe a web design that is universal and displays well, regardless of which browser or device is being used for viewing. Other terms include: "receptive", "device neutral" or "adaptive".
If you are not sure whether your website is "RWD", all you need to do is to view it on different devices, or open the site on your laptop (or pc), and gradually resize the browser window that displays the site. If the site adjusts to the different window sizes, it is a responsive site. If it looks exactly the same on each device and you have to scroll around to view the entire site, the site may be mobile ready but it is "un-responsive".
In some rare cases, the cost of converting to a responsive site is not justified. One thing that you can do is check your analytics (definitely Google Analytics if you have it). It is likely that you will find the percentage of those who view it using a mobile device. But most of us will need to retool for life on the emerging digital continent.
Realistic SEO Promises
Are you still looking for a way to raise your website in search engine rankings (SEO)? Then you better pay close attention to this simple schema of how to command attention on the web. Used with permission from Search Engine Land. Click on image to read full explanation and download this chart.
To thrive, and not merely survive in the years ahead, parishes will respond to the spiritual hungers of people who inhabit a world of technology. In the emerging digital landscape, pastoral leaders can take inspiration from such innovators as St. Paul and Bishop Fulton Sheen who used the technologies of the day in order to convey the Good News. Thriving parishes will offer spiritual content, connect with people and engage parishioners in the mission of the parish through whichever technology.
Flocknote is one specialized Catholic service for staying in touch with the flock.
There are many questions regarding the various types of technology and cost/benefit for each. The conventional approach to creating a parish presence online is a website, but a website is not the same thing as a web strategy. It is always advisable to be clear about strategy before investing in technology, since technology is merely the tool to accomplish parish objectives. Some parishes find that a combination of e-newsletters, a blog, YouTube channel and Facebook pages works as well as a website given their objectives.
The larger issues today include managing multiple platforms - Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, as well as email marketing, interactivity, mobile access as well as generating quality content. One service that promises to help parishes in the Year of Faith to blend platforms and provide Catholic media is Flocknote:
Consider other popular media resources:
According to the latest Catholic Media Use Study conducted by Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate in 2011, twice as many Catholic adults are on social networks as attend weekly Mass (50% have an online profile where only about 24% attend Mass weekly). The new connectors for church participation are online. More importantly, Pope Benedict (www.pope2you.net) assures us that Jesus wants us online. Going out and meeting people where they are at, was part of the genius of Jesus' approach to connecting and engaging with people. He met people in the workplace, the marketplace, and at the synagogue - wells and watering holes of life. Today the watering hole is online. We work there. We shop there. We socialize there. We seek entertainment there. Presence on the web is no longer an option and a website is no longer enough. Your parish needs a web strategy.
Because a parish website is the new front door, today a parish web strategy is the way we plan for making a good impression, welcome newcomers and provide hospitality in the new religious landscape. It is through this digital landscape that newcomers will most likely visit your parish first. Depending what they experience, they may come back, visit in person or they may never return. Consider the attention that you give to welcoming people online. Is your homepage attractive, welcoming, comfortable, engaging or exciting? Would a visitor want to know more about you from what they see there? Read more on developing your web strategy. Consider ways to create a digital space that is safe.
Many parishes have websites and Facebook pages which link to independent sites which are resource-rich. Consider the follow possibilities:
Pope2You - The Pope has a YouTube Site with current and archive footage with Catholics around the globe.
Our Daily Bread is promoted as a 1/2 hour cooking show which brings a Catholic presence to the secular TV markets in the eight counties of Western New York, and Southern Ontario. It is hosted by Fr. Paul D. Seil, Our Daily Bread who follows Jesus' example by inviting people into his kitchen and sharing food, fellowship and faith.
Much more than an ordinary secular cooking show, Our Daily Bread seeks to fulfill a significant part of the Church's mission to evangelize by drawing people together over simple recipes to discuss significant matters in human experience. While fostering gospel values in our society Daybreak TV Productions, which produces Our Daily Bread, promotes the dignity of the human person, and a respect for the gift of life, which is found in the simply profound and the profoundly simple.
John Paul II wrote in an Encyclical Letter, "Every person has the right to hear the 'Good News' of the God who reveals and gives himself in Christ, so that each one can live out in its fullness his or her proper calling."
Our Daily Bread, uses television as an evangelization tool aimed at all of humanity. Our Daily Bread is committed to evangelization efforts, which uses the best of what modern technology can offer; committed to new evangelization - "new in methods, new in expression and new in ador." (John Paul II, Ecclesia, in America, 9).
The program posts YouTube videos as well. The following is a popular outtake episode:
"The world is a noisy place and in our busy lives it's not always easy to be still.....take some time for yourself, stop into a church or place of worship to pray and contemplate in the quiet and peaceful surroundings." Thus began the inaugural series of daily vignettes spoken by the Catholic clergy and lay alumni of Christ the King Seminary on various topics that relate to the daily lives of Western New Yorkers. "Faith Moments" was recently launched by the Seminary to provide a morning lift to commuters as they head for work.
The series started with Reverend Monsignor Paul Burkard of Our Lady of Victory Basilica voicing faith-based messages about "finding peace" in a fast-paced society. Each day has a different thought with insights to get the faithful and - perhaps, the disenfranchised - to be energized by and guided by their faith.
"We are the Catholic Church giving the message within the context of our faith, but we're doing it for ALL people, not just our Catholic congregations," explained Fr. Peter Drilling, former President-Rector at the Diocese of Buffalo's Christ the King Seminary, "This is one way for us to reach out to people of all faiths, and even of none." There's a real need to help those afflicted by the stresses and strains of the 21st Century, and 'Faith Moments' will help them".
The program is being made possible through a grant from the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.