Recent Site Upgrade

By Dan Vis
January 16, 2017
Comments: 10

Today was a big day! We just uploaded the first major tweak to our site since the complete rewrite last September. We've been fixing little things all along, of course, but this is the first major update to the entire site. And so far everything seems to be working perfectly. In fact, if you are not careful, you might even miss the changes!

Basically, we are continuing our quest, to make our site simpler, yet more robust. And we think this upgrade will move us a step or two in that direction.

Here's a list of some of the changes we made:

The Navigation
We wanted to simplify the navigation bar along the top. To do that we:

  • Put the Dashboard link down in the side menu. Most people use the circle icons anyway.
  • We changed the Explosion link to the Training Centers link, and have merged the content. We believe this change makes what we offer far more clear.
  • Some of the menu items in the side menu were renamed, such as the Monday Memos link.
  • We've put subheadings on most sections of the site just under the title at the top of each page, and updated existing links. This makes the navigation logic more consistent throughout the entire site.
  • We've added better search capabilities to the Monday Memos, Media Center and Study Guides, to make it easier to find key pages.
  • Also, clicking "RESOURCES" takes you to a special search page that scans all our Memos, Sermons, and Study Guides simultaneously. Nice!

Welcome Area
We went through and polished the entire welcome area, to make it more appealing to guests who have not yet created accounts. Basically every page was tweaked. Some of the specific things you will notice

  • The links in the "Why Join? section of the side menu are now clickable. This gives visitors the ability to see more of our site, without having to login.

  • The media center is now open to visitors, and we've included a few recent sermons as samples to guests.

  • This also means sermons, as well as blog posts are now shareable on social media. Expect a snippet for that in the near future to make it even easier.

  • The pull down menu under the main FAST Missions link has been simplified to just the four main links necessary to become a member.

Study Guides
We've also made some exciting changes to the Study Guides area.

  • Non-partners see the same intro page as before, but we have new subheadings, including one that links to a list of all available resources. Waive your mouse over any course for a description.

  • Clicking a title in the resource list takes you directly to the Online Store for those who would prefer to purchase printed copies.

  • We've brought back our Translation center for those who want to help translate resources into other languages, or have questions about our existing translations.

  • And there's a direct link to the signup page to make it easier for people to become partners.

  • For partners, the welcome page now gives clearer licensing information, and detailed printing instructions. Very helpful!

  • In addition to the Resource list as before, and a link to the translation center, we also added a search link for specific study guides. This whole section should now be much more handy.

Training Centers
Perhaps the biggest changes took place in our Training Center area. We are consolidating the tools here and making some big restructuring changes based on what we are noticing about how our partner churches are using our tools. Specifically:

  • Those who are not Training Center members now get a clearer description of our vision, and a detailed list of benefits.

  • There's the usual list of current centers for people wanting to join a specific center.

  • And there's a direct link to the page used to sponsor your church. We are also modifying the sign up process to make it easier for new members to sign up.

  • Existing training centers now see a special news page when they first login, with recent training center updates and other helpful information.

  • There are now separate links in the side menu for managing your members list, accessing study guides, an updated Getting Started page, and a priority Help Hotline--all from within the center.

  • This new structure will also make it easier to add new features to our training centers in the future. Basically, we're getting you setup for some big changes planned for later this year.

Upcoming Changes
The structure we implemented back in September has proved to be a great blessing for our community and with the little bit of polishing we did today, we have things about how we want them! Praise God. We do have a timetable however for several more big updates soon:

January: The Journey class goes up and opens for our first pioneering batch of students in just a few days. Can't wait!

February - March: We'll be reviewing each section of the Dashboard and focusing our efforts on making each one as simple, yet potent as powerful. Expect some big improvements to each of the tools, and the addition of a new, fifth tool, as well!

April - June: Our final big push is going to be the restructuring of our training center and church admin tools. We are prayfully exploring ways to more tightly integrate the two to make things simpler and yet include several new tools as well. We will be consulting closely with existing centers as we do this. For now, we are no longer including our church admin tools with new training centers. We expect to bring them back in a somewhat different form later this year, once we are able to complete our revisions. All our FAST training center tools will continue as usual. Please contact me if you have questions.

Conclusion

In summary, this tweak truly is a polishing up of the major upgrade we did back in September. We are thrilled with how our new systems are working, and pray the refinements we made today, will only make our mission more clear, and our resources more accessible and easy to use. Thanks for your patience during this time of transition.

Comments

So what do you think? Do the changes make sense to you? What about our roadmap through 2017? Anything special you would like to see? Fee free to share your thoughts in the comments below. That's how we learn and improve our site!

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Posted by Christine on 01/25/17  
I'm glad to hear about the Friend feature/5th tool in the pipeline. ;)
Podcasts are a good option for listening to sermons offline. Great stuff Dan!
Posted by Dan Vis on 01/24/17  
Christine, the 5th tool on the dashboard and the find a friend feature are connected. :) But I don't have a timetable for it, as it will be a big project. Hopefully this spring however.

I don't plan to do a download feature for the media center at present, though I would like to see our sermons reorganized into a podcast for those who prefer listening offline that way. Again, no exact timeline.
Posted by Christine on 01/24/17  
I also meant to ask about the schedule for the update of the Find A Friend feature in the Student Area. Thanks Dan.
Posted by Christine on 01/24/17  
Thanks Dan for the instructions about the latest polishing up of the site, and the well layout plan of action for this new year. ;)
I'm intrigued by the 5th tool in the Dashboard...
As for the Media Centre, do you plan to have a download feature like before? or not having it is part of the efforts to make the site more simple?
Posted by Dan Vis on 01/18/17  
Just need to keep focused on the goal. New steps every day to make things easier...
Posted by Fiona van Wyk on 01/18/17  
The paradigm shift has worked well, Dan. Praise the Lord. It is lovely to have such interaction on the site, and to meet so many new people here, who are also wanting to grow in the Lord, and understand the Scriptures better, and memorize God's Word. :)
Posted by Dan Vis on 01/17/17  
Glad we made it to your bookmark bar, Chrissie! That's pretty big! :)
Posted by Chrissie Decker on 01/17/17  
I don't know your thoughts, but I think as things get easier, and more 'user friendly' God allows more to find them, make proper use of them...just a thought. I'm on Flocktoc, and I have found that as it has become more user friendly, more are coming there too.

(If you're not familiar with it, I heartily recommend it as a place where even lay people are able to share the Lord in a wide-spread way, which for someone who's home most of the time, is a great blessing)

Anyway, for me personally, as I stepped into the water, so to speak, got a new computer (not high tech, but better than none) the Lord is opening things up for me to both study on my own and to study with others in new and amazing ways and this is one of the places I have on my bookmarks bar easy to find now. :)
God bless ~
Posted by Dan Vis on 01/17/17  
Appreciate you sharing that Chrissie! Last fall we had a major paradigm shift: that the simpler we made things, the more useful people would find our site. It wasn't about how many features we had, it was about how intuitive they were. Since then we've made that our primary goal, and have been working steadily at it. Glad to hear we are making progress!
Posted by Chrissie Decker on 01/16/17  
In just the couple weeks on this site this year, I see major changes and they are for the better, clearer, easier to navigate, more 'user friendly'. Thank you all for the work you do, not for self, but for the Lord. God bless!




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