Do you ever visit the church’s website for members (at lds.org)? I must confess, I rarely do. It seems so…austere. And somewhat…inorganic.
So, I have to confess that as a result, I rarely (if ever) visited the church’s website for non-members (at mormon.org). I thought it would be much of the same, and I thought I’d have to be a little embarrassed for it.
…but just a few days ago, the LDS Newsroom (another church site I rarely check…grr, I’m so bad!) announced that Mormon.org had gotten a facelift. I don’t know about you, but I am in awe. Click the image (or here) to jump to it!
I think the church has been trying to change its image for a while (and some of our friends in the Bloggernacle have discussed whether outside coverage on shifting Mormon perceptions is changing the average person’s viewpoint), but it’s had some misses. For example, it rang in 2009 with a new site for church youth (which [fortunately] has been quietly scuttled away, as far as I can tell — but you can still check out the video here), a site that oozed with pop andtotal radicality.
But for the new Mormon.org…I could be wrong…but it seems that the years of research into design, psychology, and current awareness of Mormonism paid off. You can read a fascinating account of the development of the new site here.
Here are just a few of my favorite aspects of the site.
Integration of Our People
From the first page (and even the picture that I posted), you can see that the designers of the new Mormon.org wanted people to hear regular (even if particularly attractive, talented) members. But what particularly intrigued me was the Our People page itself, where anyone can search for member testimonies and profiles by ethnicity, continent, age, gender, or even religious background. One goal of the designers at North Temple’s was to improve the perceptions of Mormons — especially of the diversity of the church membership — and I certainly think that this site has been a good step here.
Even more, member perspectives are integrated elsewhere throughout the site. Take for example the FAQ. Each topic has, in addition to the official church response, responses from various members. I’m certain that there is a certain vetting process to make sure that everything is kosher, but even in some touchy questions, there are touching, if seemingly surprising answers. (One woman answers the question regarding the church’s position on homosexuality and gay marriage by pointing out that the church does not support same-sex marriage, but does support families. She notes this has allowed her to support her mother, who is a lesbian, and her partner.)
Emphasis on Our Values
As someone who doesn’t have a testimony of every aspect of the faith, I could still be on board with the presentation of church values. The new mormon.org presents these values in such a way that most people can easily find agreement, but it does not try to present these values in a completely sterile and neutral way. The site successfully incorporates LDS perspectives, scriptures, and quotations so that they are not overbearing, but in a way that a non-member of the site could see that the church does have vibrant positions.
For example, the page on LDS valuation of freedom of choice conveys both the LDS position of official political neutrality and the LDS position of standing up for its valued moral positions. I understand that this interplay is often a raw point for some, but the site gracefully handles it.
Employment of Colors
Recently, another one of our brethren in the Bloggernacle listed the several “V” words that he found to be integral to true religion. His terms were an emotional onomatopoeia of life, love, and learning. Two words he used were verdant and vibrant — words that evoke a sense of richness to color.
This has not been lost or forgone with the new Mormon.org. I must admit that I am not a formal designer, and I am not a color psychologist, but as someone who can see and feel, I see vitality and hope from this very site. I can see some who might be skeptical — “it is just marketing; it is just pushing buttons.” But what about the fantastic art of the Renaissance? The heaven-reaching architecture? The divine melodies of the music?
I guess I’m not saying that this is the new masterpiece, but in the same way that effective design principles have always been used for emotional and spiritual direction and amplification, I feel like this site is a modern paradigm.
So, what do you think? Am I totally off the mark? Do you think that this will have any effect on nonmembers’ perceptions?