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    Redesigning the website for the Association of United Church Educators
The Association of United Church Educators (AUCE) Website

Date: Fall 2015

The Association of United Church Educators works to support Christian Educators, Youth Leaders, and others engaged in Faith Formation across the United Church of Christ and it's full communion partners, such as the Disciples of Christ. They partner with other organizations to provide training, resources, and curriculum to their members. Regional AUCE groups host annual events, which gather ministry leaders from across their region to connect with one another and learn new skills. And perhaps most importantly, AUCE provides a significant network of people working in the field who can support and advocate for one another.

In the fall of 2015, Alex took on the "embedded" role of being AUCE's "Digital Missioner," in charge of all things digital for the organization. As a small nonprofit serving members across a large geographic area, AUCE's digital presence has increasingly become it's primary means of communicating with and supporting its membership. The role of digital missioner is not only to maintain the digital presence of AUCE but to explore and facilitate new ways of fulfilling AUCE's mission more effectively through digital tools.

Step one was assessing and redeveloping the existing AUCE website. Said Alex at the time:

The AUCE website already contained a large collection of resources for ministry leaders to use in their own churches, but what I found a little challenging about the site was it’s navigation. Finding resources you might be looking for wasn’t always intuitive and there was no search option to help you out. The site navigation was designed, I think, to funnel visitors towards information about AUCE with an eye towards nudging new visitors to consider joining the organization. Needing new members is important: one of the roles that AUCE plays as a national organization is having “voice-without-vote” at the UCC General Synod every two years. Their ability to represent their constituents in faith formation and christian education on the floor of the Synod is directly proportional to the size of their membership, so keeping those numbers is very important to their ability to influence decisions being made in Cleveland. But the most important day-to-day work of AUCE is actually oriented towards its members in the field: providing them resources to do their ministry, connecting them with training opportunities, and offering them support in the way of colleagues and mentors.

A look at the AUCE website before we began:
With this in mind, remodeling the AUCE website focused on making it much more intuitive for visitors for find the resources and colleagues they expect AUCE to provide for them. Putting navigation options titled “Find Resources” and “Find Colleagues” first in the menu helps this website act as an arm of the organization, doing AUCE’s important work in the digital sphere. Intuitive navigation was also extended to submenus. For example, under resources, the choices became: Children, Youth, Families. This made it even easier for visitors to quickly find what they are looking for.

In conjunction with these navigation changes, the overall design was also updated with an eye towards conveying a sense of energy and vitality (both of which are crucial to Christian Education and Youth Ministry) and also making the AUCE sight more visually align with the style and theme of the United Church of Christ, the primary denomination we serve (see our denominational style guide for more info).

The end result looked like this:
Future Considerations for our ongoing work in service of AUCE will include:
- Enabling online membership registrations and renewals
- A whole new approach to our "members-only" content
- Exploring ways to better support our regions online, including through providing event planning, promotion, and registration tools