If you visit the website of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) today, you will notice that things look different.

After months of preparation and a public preview, the new website is live at crcna.org.

In addition to the new look, it features better technology, and layouts that adapt for mobile and tablet displays.

The new site features blog posts from pastors, missionaries, and more.

The site also features blog posts from CRC members around the web, including pastors, missionaries, church planters and authors, plus real-time feeds of the latest content from The Banner and The Network.

As part of the transition, 13 sub-sites have been migrated into the new system, such as Safe Church, Canadian Ministries, and Pastor-Church Relations. Other larger ministries, including Home Missions and World Missions, are planning to join in the future.

Why a new website?

“This complete reworking of crcna.org has been in the works for many months behind the scenes,” says Henry Hess, the CRCNA’s director of communication.

“Although the previous site served us well for a long time, substantially beyond the industry average, it had outlived its usefulness, both in design and functionality,” Hess adds.

“The way people use websites - and what they expect of them - has changed tremendously. The new site allows us to meet those needs and expectations.”

In recent years, web-based communications have taken a leading role in connecting CRC members with each other, their denominational ministries, and the broader world, says Hess.

Visitors to crcna.org racked up more than two million pageviews in the past year, with another 600,000 pageviews on The Network. And there is every indication that the trend will continue.

Tim Postuma, web and e-communications manager, led the project that involved both staff and outside freelancers.

The system is built on Drupal, a leading open-source tool that powers some of the most popular sites on the web.

“Open-source technology lets us benefit from a global community of developers who are helping the product constantly improve”, says Postuma. “All with no licensing fees.”

'Responsive design' adapts for mobile phones and tablets.

Using the latest ‘responsive design’ techniques, every page layout adapts to the size of your device - from small mobile phones, to tablets, to full-size computer screens. Postuma says that about 15 percent of visits are from phones and tablets, a figure that is growing.

In addition, the new design uses a wider page than before. “Most design evolves over time—especially website design,” says Dean Heetderks, design director for the project. “Most exciting to me in the current evolution is the larger ‘page’ and the stronger visual impact it allows.”

CRCNA.org is both a website, and a collection of websites for individual ministries. That, says Heetderks, presents some design challenges to “honor the uniqueness of each area but also create a site that is easy to navigate and feels familiar across sections.”

Beyond design and technology, the new site also brings together good content that is currently scattered across the web.

“Every week, our missionaries, local pastors, field staff, and others put out some great real-world, in-the-trenches blog posts,” says Postuma.

“With the launch of our new site, we’re giving them more prominence by featuring select posts on the CRCNA home page and in our News & Views section.”

“We believe they are powerful testimonies of what God is doing across our denomination and around the world.”

Unified login reduces password overload.

Another priority was to reduce password overload. A unified account structure allows people to use the same login for commenting across The Banner, The Network, and the CRCNA website. Or to log in using existing accounts on Facebook, Gmail, and other services.

As the site launches, Postuma says, staff will be standing by ready to fix bugs or make adjustments. In particular, it will take a few days for the site search and links between old and new sites to get all ironed out. A ‘Feedback’ tab on the right side of every page allows visitors to report problems or offer suggestions.

“With websites, you’re never done,” Postuma comments. “User expectations are constantly evolving based on what they see on other sites, and now we’ll be able to adapt more quickly than before.”