Skip to content

Faith & Leadership website redesign

    MEMBER CASE STUDY: redesign

    General background:

    Faith & Leadership is an online magazine that provides multidisciplinary resources, information and innovative ideas to leaders of Christian institutions and organizations to strengthen the practice of Christian leadership. It launched on Jan. 23, 2009.

    Our primary audience is composed of denominational leaders, institutional church leaders, leaders of large congregations, and students and professors in seminaries. Our secondary audience is composed of denominational board members, congregational board members, lay leaders, pastors of smaller congregations, church consultants, Christian professionals and news media.
    We use surveys, Google analytics and a usability study to direct and inform how we create and share our content.

    Every two weeks, concurrent with our twice-monthly newsletter that reaches about 13,000 subscribers, we remake the site’s homepage with six pieces of original content. Our content is multidisciplinary, in keeping with our belief that Christian leaders can learn from innovation and leadership both within and outside the church.

    In addition, each weekday Associate Editor Bob Wells surveys dozens of websites and selects news stories that are critical for Christian institutional leaders to read. We call this service News & Ideas and it is posted on our site as News & Ideas and sent out each weekday by email to about 3,000 subscribers. We also share it through social media.

    In 2015, the web site had 350,000 unique visitors, who came to the site 520,000 times. Since its launch,1.7 million visitors have come to Faith & Leadership, viewing 5.4 million pages.

    We tweet to our 7,500-odd followers and update our Facebook page daily as well; we have about 2,500 likes on Facebook.

    We are funded by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. and are part of Duke Divinity School.


    Since 2009 we have made adjustments to the site, but on Feb. 4, 2015, we launched a redesign of Faith & Leadership.

    From the beginning, we struggled with the fact that Faith & Leadership served as an online magazine as well as a “brochure” for our umbrella organization, Leadership Education at Duke Divinity.

    Our usability study showed that mixing these two efforts together was confusing to readers. In 2013, we created a new, distinct website for Leadership Education at Duke Divinity which explained those programs and services. This paved the way for Faith & Leadership to focus entirely on its original mission: editorial content and online learning, and to do so more clearly for our readers.

    Other highlights of the new design:

    Overall, we emphasized two important philosophies in the update: clean design and accessibility.

    We completely restructured our menus so that not only would there be fewer labels, but those phrases would better align with readers’ mental model for exploring a website. Our new menu makes it very easy for readers to find what they want, using phrases that they might think to search. By listing fewer choices, visitors are more likely to read what is listed (also known as the “less is more” approach).

    On a technical level, the entire site is now responsive. This means that it will work on a desktop computer, tablet, Kindle, or mobile phone. It will automatically resize and display the most appropriate menu visual based on the screen available. Pages look more elegant and work better in whatever context someone might want to use the site. We can already see from our analytics that this is changing how our audience interacts with us: Mobile use increased 36 percent since last year.

    Recognizing that people often search a website for specific issues and problems they are trying to solve, we expanded our topics and made it easier to explore articles by subject. In keeping with this, we retired formats that were less meaningful to the reader experience, such as multimedia pages and blog posts. Over the years we discovered that users were unclear about the distinction between the blog (formerly known as Call & Response) and other article pages anyway. We kept the old content and better integrated it into the rest of the topics, which makes far more sense for our readers looking for help on a subject.

    We worked to create a homepage that invited people into our body of work. The latest features are prominently at the top and now there is also space for us to highlight relevant headlines from our archives. For instance, we can hand-pick relevant articles for the season of Lent or other timely themes.

    The What We Teach section highlights content written by the thought leaders in our organization, grouped according to core concepts. Paired with that is a highlighted piece of content from those core concepts, which is changed every two weeks.

    Content pages:

    The new design is more modern and much cleaner than our previous pages. (An example of the old design page is provided.) The left-hand navigation is gone, giving it a cleaner look and, again, lessening confusion about the purpose of the site. Most importantly, it’s easier to focus on reading the narrative because there are fewer visual distractions.

    New functionality allows more flexibility with options such as pull quotes and highlight boxes.

    Social media icons are better integrated into the page to allow for easier sharing as users scroll through the content.

    The byline area now allows us to feature a photograph and title for writers, as in this example:…

    We have the ability to highlight our partners, as in this example with Lake Institute.

    Overall, we believe the new design is more beautiful, clearer in its purpose and easier to navigate than our old site.


    Jessamyn Rubio, interactive media manager
    Duke Web Services, developers