In the midst of the Coronavirus lockdown, the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton approached us to create a brand new diocesan website for them. This was a great opportunity for us to work with a vibrant diocese looking to engage their digital community in a new way. The new website was to amalgamate four separate websites, consolidate content, function flawlessly, and be a beautiful representation of the Catholic community in the diocese.
Through the challenges of a pandemic, we laid out our strategy, gathered an abundance of content, conducted a full rebrand and launched a new diocesan website. We are so thankful to the Catholic Diocese of Arundel & Brighton for allowing us to collaborate with them in this way, with particular thanks to Bishop Richard Moth and the Diocesan Communications Officer, Laura Maydew-Gale, with whom we worked closely throughout.
One of the primary objectives of the new site was to unify various official diocesan departments under one digital roof. Previously in place were four diocesan websites, a main site, a finance and administration site, a Lourdes pilgrimage site and an education service site. The diocese wanted to amalgamate all of this content together into one site with a consistent style and standard of quality.
This required an extensive branding exercise as there was an inconsistency of logos and colour schemes in use across their platforms. There were also technical solutions needed in terms of online events management, databasing, and online giving.
In addition to the practical elements of the new site, it was important to us to clearly communicate the mission and vision of Arundel & Brighton Diocese. Whilst all Catholic dioceses share the ultimate vision of the Church, each one has its own challenges and objectives. Communicating this well would be key to allowing both those inside and outside of the diocese to quickly understand what the diocese stands for.
This initial step of our content strategy was to immerse ourselves in diocesan life by gathering basic and complex information, from the number of parishes and Mass-goers, to Bishop Richard Moth’s Pastoral letters and podcasts. Our guiding text was ‘The Word Who is Life’, the Pastoral Plan for the diocese produced by Bishop Richard in 2018. This plan was very clear about the challenges to Catholicism in today’s culture and the stark realities of the many people who are leaving the faith. However, it also proposed a way forward, focused on the three pillars of prayer, formation and mission. Through this pastoral plan we understood that these three tenets would be central to the diocese going forward, and that with them, the diocese hoped to help their people in becoming witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ in everyday life.
Additionally, we developed a plan for the scale and complexity of the diocese. Arundel & Brighton may be small in its number of parishes (around 83), however, it is mighty in its engagement. No department in the diocese could be described as ‘dormant’, as every corner appears to have a dedicated team of individuals working hard to grow and develop, whether this was the annual Lourdes pilgrimage or the diocesan formation team.
Ultimately, we were looking at a very large amount of content going into a website which had to be extremely functional from both the administration end and the visitor end.
As the content was assembled, the design of the site also took a lot of careful consideration. Prior to our arrival, the diocese used a simple three-shade colour scheme of ink blue, sunrise yellow, and white. The ident in place was a simple blue cross with a white outline. One Trajan typeface was used for the name of the diocese and all other fonts were relatively inconsistent, though mostly sans serif. This entire design system had variations to it, depending on which diocesan site was visited; we found six variations of the emblem alone.
Our initial step was to develop a theme document. We approached this with the objective of creating a relevant, yet traditional design scheme which could be appreciated across various digital platforms and printed publications. The blue and yellow were staples of the diocese, and so we began by working with them to make a more versatile, five-shade approach. Appreciating the previous use of a Trajan font, we adopted Trajan Pro 3 for titles, and paired it with a highly versatile sans serif body font, Akagi Pro. Our final piece was to request the diocese to discard the current emblem, a symbol which had no rooted connection to the community. Our proposition was to replace it with a simplified version of Bishop Richard’s Crest, an approach often adopted by Catholic Dioceses. By framing a diocese with a Bishop’s Crest, it allows for a greater recognition and appreciation of the Bishop’s commitment as a shepherd to his flock. The diocesan trustees were in agreement with our suggestion and we were able to move forward with a rebrand of the diocese with a coherent understanding of its identity.
The abundance of content across an array of differently-structured departments meant that website structuring was going to be challenging. The simple option was to use large navigation menus with all departments listed. However, we approached the challenge by mapping out the user-journey; this allowed us to understand how we could direct the user to the content they required most efficiently. We reduced page numbers by bringing together content which had audience-intention in common, which then reduced the amount of travelling a user would have to do through the site. We then categorised the content by department and gave each department its own sub-navigation system, allowing them to act as micro-sites within a bigger family.
Aside from informative content, the website was in need of user-friendly functional tools, including event registering tools, parish and school finders, and directories. To focus on our most intuitive tool, we put in place a dynamic and user-friendly giving system. The giving system allows the diocese to collect donations (one-off and regular) for various funds through one online portal, which not only stores donor data in a GDPR-compliant database but also processes GiftAid directly with HMRC. In addition, we added all parishes in the diocese to the system, meaning that all parishes in the diocese can now collect online donations through both the diocesan website and their own parish website. Overall, we believe this is the best possible option for a diocese in the UK right now, and with fees at 2% (capped at £2.50) per donation, it’s extremely affordable. This was one of our primary objectives for the diocese, particularly because of the financial hardship the Church is undergoing at this time due to the pandemic.
The most prominent challenge of this project was that it began at the start of the UK lockdown in April of 2020. Working from home was something we were comfortable with as a team, using Zoom meetings and online systems is an area we know well, however, gathering visual content for the site was difficult. Not only were we unable to visit the diocese to capture photography or videography, but if we were, we would have seen empty churches and nothing going on. Our solution to this was to gather as much as possible from the diocese, request that individual churches, schools, and departments send us any photos and/or videos they would be happy for us to use. We then sifted through this variety of content to determine what we could use and edited it to meet our adopted styles.
We ran a soft launch of the website on Friday, 9th October 2020. It was important for us to meet this date as the current diocesan site was going offline shortly before. The soft launch allowed us to make final edits to the site whilst also giving the diocese a functional and beautiful digital platform. It was hugely rewarding for us to work with Arundel & Brighton diocese on this project and to achieve the goal of amalgamating four sites into one dynamic new website, consistent in its brand and quality. We are very thankful to them for approaching us with a project of this scale and complexity.
Comprehensive results are still to be quantified and will be posted here in the coming months.