After reading an article (from Six Revisions) on the History of the Internet, I realized just how cutting-edge our Church has been, historically, when it comes to using the web for communications. The Vatican website (www.vatican.va) was one of the first globally-relevant and vast websites in the world!
The site was built in 1995 as a repository of Church documents, and has since been greatly expanded. However, in this time, pages are getting lost, information is, at best, hard to find, and the generic design has barely changed.
Vatican.va - then (1998) and now. Not much has changed, at least on the surface.
What will it take to bring the Vatican back to the fore of the Internet? Pope Benedict, and Pope John Paul II before him, have repeatedly called for the responsible and widespread use of new communications technology in evangelization and preservation of the Gospel... let's get back on top of the game!
Steps Towards a Better Website
What can the Vatican do to get back in the game? Well, here are a few suggestions:
- Get on a CMS. And make the site truly multi-lingual. Drupal would be a good choice, with it's i18n module. Content should be published in multiple languages quickly and properly-translated.
- Auto-detect the user's region and give him the front page in their own language, with the option of changing languages.
- Put more evangelical information on the front page. A picture of Saint Peter's square doesn't suffice. Have something that will bring a newcomer further into the site (maybe a tie-in to the Vatican Museums?).
- Highlight Papal encyclicals and Church documents; perhaps start a blog for topics covered in the plethora of online documents!
- Get rid of the ugly, 90s-era repeating background image. But keep an elegant, relatively-timeless style.
These are just a few of my suggestions – many more can be had. What do you think?