Introducing the new CSCS Website

Terry Weldon

Our new look website is now up and running, and has been for some while. It’s time to introduce our members to the new site, explain the reasons for the redesign, and offer some guidance on how to access and use it.

Why was it necessary?

 The original site was first created a long time ago, when website technology was far more primitive than it has since become. Without updating, it had come to look seriously old and tired, when compared with what people have become generally used to, on pretty well all other sites. In addition, the specific technology that was used was poorly suited to cope with the demands wanted for improved usability that your committee was wanting to introduce, for the benefit of our existing members, and to introduce our work to a wider readership.

 Adapting the technology has made it necessary to adopt a completely new URL, which could be an inconvenience for those who have become used to the old one and perhaps bookmarked it, but we believe that there are substantial benefits that will soon outweigh the short term inconvenience. If you have bookmarked the old website address, we suggest that you should change it now, to:

 http://christianityandsexuality.org/

 What has changed?

 The first and most obvious change is simply that of the appearance, to make it brighter and more attractive. See that for yourself, just by going to the site, and having a look. A cosmetic change to the appearance though, is not the most important new feature.

 My primary purpose in the new design, was to substantially improve the ease of use, and navigation across the site. To achieve this, there are numerous features built in, whether you are simply browsing, looking for material on a specific topic, or even trying to track down a very specific article that you may have seen previously, but can no longer locate.  The primary method of site navigation is now by a hierarchical page structure, listed in a horizontal navigation bar across the top of the page (as before, but with added features). Additional navigation features include a search box, and a system of categories and tags applied to all material. This will improve the efficiency of the search facility, but can also be used by selecting an item from the category listing, or tag cloud, in the right hand side bar. (Not all material has yet been so tagged, but that will improve with time). For more information on site navigation, click on the “Contents” page in the horizontal navigation bar.

 An additional important aim, was to create a means for direct reader response, to the site itself, or to any specific content. The new technology allows for direct reader response, by a “comments” box, to any item on the site – whether a specific newsletter article (see below), or a news flash (also, see below). Comments threads also provide the opportunity to respond not only to the original content, but also to the earlier responses of other readers.

 The heart of the website, at present, is the publication of newsletter material, as before. For each newsletter, the content has been posted twice – once, as a complete newsletter, which may be read from start to finish, and again, as a series of separate posts for each article therein, to facilitate tagging for the search facilities, and to enable direct reader response to specific articles. The next step in this site redevelopment, will be to introduce a “members’ area”, where there will be content restricted to registered members, and (possibly) where members will be able to initiate private correspondence with other members.

 An important further new facility, not previously available, is the use of the website to release major news announcements. These could be our own news, for example, of forthcoming conferences and other events, or pointers to major news developments in the world outside. Examples of how we have done this in recent months, have been for announcements of the Manchester University conference on intersex and faith, and of our own February 2013 conference on transgender and faith, and a post listing news reports from mainstream media about the Church of England Synod’s failure to approve  women bishops. This news alert facility will be substantially upgraded, as we move ahead.

 Our membership at present is limited. One of my hopes for the redesigned website, is that by making it more accessible to the web search engines (through the system of categories and tags, and some other technical means), we can attract new readers who are not at present CSCS members – but who may be drawn in by the website, and so sign up as members. Early indications are that we are indeed attracting at least some of these potential new members.

 To really male the most of these innovations, we need your help. Explore all the features described above – and use the opportunities for feedback, as comments to either the main pages, or to specific posts.

 I look forward to hearing from you, and of your responses.

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