|Homepage of The Holy See.|
The biggest flaw of the Vatican website is its discoverability and main entry point(s). The site doesn't appear anywhere on the first page of a Google search for 'Catholic Church' or 'Catholicism'. And even if curious non- or new Catholics find their way to the site, the bursting menus on the homepage look overwhelming. True to older principles of design, the homepage gives you a button to 'everywhere' all in one place. After that, the navigation is pretty simple and straightforward (everything is essentially organized into long, no-frills lists). But before they see this, the site's audience needs to know who the Church is, and what the Vatican is doing. Enter news.va.
With a characteristically sweet tweet, the Pope launched the new site last summer. The new site constitutes a much-needed multi-media and news portal for the Vatican. Although it also lacks the same kind of the discoverability of the Holy See's homepage (it won't be in the top results of search for 'Catholicism' or 'Vatican,' but will come up with a search for 'Vatican news'), I think the new site has so far been a great step forward for the new evangelization, serving as a much more effective means for engaging the world. With all the news feeds, links, videos, and photos, one really gets a sense of the church as busy, enterprising body instead of a static archive of encyclicals. Big improvements are still needed for the Vatican's homepage, especially in presentation and cleanliness (although I think the relatively new mobile site looks to be much more promising in this regard, with the integration of multi-media and a more friendly layout). Another welcome development is the recent release of a new domain for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the the Faith (otherwise known as the Roman Curia). This will provide (hopefully) a more direct access point to the CDF's documents (although it appears to have the same issues appearing in Google results as the other sites). I hope that news.va can serve as a precedent for future Vatican web development efforts.