Interwebbery of the Vatican

Last night I read a rather humorous criticism of the website. The author has at various times worked on church websites, and pick out the failings of the common ‘go-to’ site of the Church.

Niggles identified include:

  • the requirement to type out ‘’ instead of ‘’ and letting the redirect take you the rest of the way
  • having to pick your language each time you visit the site, with no cookies to remember last time’s one, or to automatically detect the default language of the country you are accessing from
  • having to email to get the advertised (but un-described) widget (never known of anyone who actually has it)
  • having a link to a search page, instead of having a search box available on any page

They finish by presenting the example of the official Mormon website, which has a pretty nice design, and is rather well-adapted for the modern age. On the other hand, my initial impression of the Mormon website was that it was too corporate and business like. I wonder how theology and philosophy would inform web-site architecture? Is a website not simply a utilitarian tool, to be designed to make finding and communicating information easy and exact? Perhaps this would rule out anything other than going for the efficient corporate look?

Other people have complained about the website, Fr Z for example, has complained that even recently published documents take years to become available in anything other than Latin, and oddly, Hungarian.

So it is no surprise that there is a movement to radically redesign and its more than half a million internal pages, and to make more documents available. I’m not sure when this is planned to become available, but surely whatever happens will be an improvement on the status quo (then again, we could get what Timeline was to Facebook, something very unpopular).

Now I don’t know if this is the new design, but the new website is fantastic. It should be the new ‘go-to’ for the vast majority of Catholics and non-Catholics. I would like to see the new content become available here soon.

The ways in which this is an improvement:

  • Facebook, Twitter, RSS, Youtube, Flickr integration. How about you all give the new site a Facebook share to get it out there?!?!
  • Search box, woohoo!
  • Detected my language.
  • Relevant and up to date news items, including things not only of Church interest, I think this will become one of my regular ‘news check’ website for international affairs.
  • The Church in the world section is pretty good at providing interesting articles, I was tempted to read all of the ones immediately available on the home page.
  • New Video Channel, and easy access to Vatican Radio audio, as well as a Flickr photo gallery feed.

I’m not totally sold on the colour scheme, or the badge design on the top left corner. I think the site still has a way to go. That said, the poor colour scheme gives it that warm, earthy, World Youth Day feel. Sure it is tacky, but probably an improvement over the clinical Mormon website?

I also felt that, while the information is presented in a way that isn’t overwhelming, there was still a lot, maybe too much on one page, although the amount of information viewable in a single browser frame is not too much, having to scroll a long way to get to the footer is not ideal. It probably makes the site not very mobile friendly, but it wasn’t terrible when I tried it in a mobile browser. Other than the social media integration icons under the search box having a freak out and stacking on top of each other and the menu banner, it handled better than I expected and would possibly only really benefit from a dedicated mobile app or lite version.

What is wrong with the current website for you? What would you like to see in the improved design? What is the lacking? Is going down the flashy design road that the Mormons have the way to go? Or is there a way in which our Catholic heritage can inform how a website looks today?



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    Comments: 2

    1. lukechapter12 September 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      I agree – the Vatican website is, at times, horribly annoying. In the scope of things it doesn’t really matter, but it would be nice if it could all work easily.
      The Vatican Widget is just as bad. I’ve worked on getting it on our blog at FaithbookNZ, and so far all I’ve been able to get is a picture which links to the widget on the Vatican website. So essentially, it’s nothing more than a glorified button. But I’m currently in contact with Telecommunications Director of the Vatican City and will (hopefully) get it sorted… I’ll let you know when (if!) it does!

      But that website is brilliant! Here’s hoping the site will be done up.

      God bless,

    2. Opthomistic September 21, 2012 at 5:04 pm

      Thanks for that luke 12, I chuckled when I looked at what the widget does on your blog! Bless them!