Why did we need a new website?For years, the AIA website has operated as a brochure for the organization. At its best, it’s been a launching point for all things AIA: our tours, projects, camps, retreats, events. Our story and news material revolved around telling the changed-life story, a cornerstone of this organization since its inception.
Based on direct feedback from our staff and even more specific analytics over the years, it’s beyond time to explore a different, broader approach. As we live in a digital age, we have to move beyond the “brochure” and consider how to create material that not only better serves our staff in their personal ministry, but also reaches a larger pool of people who count themselves as Christians and love sports. (Read “It’s Time” here)
Who has been working on it?From within the organization, Dave Perlow, Brian Smith, and Ed Uszynski have been giving primary leadership to the purpose, design, and content creation. However, it’s important to know that from the beginning not only have we been getting input from staff across the country, but more importantly from national experts in web design, execution, and strategy.
Some key players worth knowing about: Dan Mall, a popular creative designer from Philadelphia; SparkBox, a growing Dayton design firm ; Joshua Blankenship, creative and digitial director of the third largest church in the country. We have also been in communication with the Digital Strategies department in Orlando and they fully support what we are doing.
Why is it called The Assist?When initial work began over a year ago, the intention was to have a completely new site that would run alongside but separate from athletesinaction.org. As such, we needed a new name for the site. Brian Smith had brainstormed ideas for the creation of an app he wanted to call “The Assist,” a tool that would assist people in doing ministry and thinking with a Christian mind about sport. As we worked on the new site, the outsourced design team came up with over 100 possible names, but none of them were better than The Assist in conveying what we wanted the site to be and do.
Why is The Assist logo no longer being used?Exactly two months before the expected launch of the new site, the decision was made to completely replace the old site with the design and material being proposed for The Assist site. This had significant ramifications for everything we were planning to do, and presented new problems that needed to be solved quickly. We wanted to keep The Assist as a branding title but now it would be in the athletesinaction.org domain. After the first month, we decided having The Assist logo at the top would still be competing with the Athletes in Action name in a way that doesn’t make sense for right now. We will probably still refer to what’s happening on the athletesinaction.org site as The Assist material/content even though we won’t be making The Assist brand as noticeable throughout the site.
Why weren’t we told before it launched?The decision to keep the entire process quiet was intentional. We didn’t want to talk about a significant shift and then not deliver it. So many things had to come together before the January launch and things were changing so quickly over the course of the past year that we wanted to make sure we could produce the site (and that it would work right) before letting anyone know it was coming.
In hindsight, especially once the decision to make The Assist actually be the athletesinaction.org site two months before the launch, we should have notified everyone a couple weeks before going live because of the confusion created in the transition. Many of you have already voiced your concern about this decision and the strain it created for you. We apologize for the stress it created. (As this was primarily my (Ed) decision, direct all remaining complaints about it to me--it was my fault!)
What is the purpose of the site?The stated mission of the site is “to help sports-minded people think and live biblically at the intersection of sport and Christianity.” We want to reach out to the millions of people who comprise the “Christians who follow sport” category and move them at the very least to think more biblically about their involvement with sport and at best to become lifetime laborers and movement builders within their athletic sphere of influence.
We hope the site becomes the springboard for a new branding identity for AIA in digital space. What if we became a destination site for people looking for a Christian take on the sports world? Or better still, what if when they saw content posted from our site in their feed, they had an expectation that our take would be one they couldn’t find in other sport media venues?
"Every" has become a keyword and rallying point for our ministry in the last few years. As staff, we are limited in our capacity to reach every athlete. But in the digital space, there are no limits. There is mind-boggling capacity to go after our target audience! We want to make content that is not only useful to you as staff, but that you would want to share and repost and push out in front of others. Content that you would actually be proud to share as an extension of your ministry, a catalyst in your effort to reach “every.” As such, we’ll need your feedback along the way to make that happen.
Who is our audience?Our primary audience is athletes (mostly college/pro with trickle down to high school), but following close behind are coaches and parents of athletes. We will be experimenting with content directed at all three of those audiences over time, with athletes always being the majority audience in mind.
What is the future for the site?Dan Mall told us the biggest mistake his clients make is to try waiting until the site they envisioned is perfect before launching. Many pay hundreds of thousands of dollars and then never launch. He encouraged us to launch and then be diligent to work through problems and additions in real time.
We have ideas for eight sections right now and lots of creative thought on things we can try, but we decided to start in our wheelhouse: a weekly, relevant blog-level essay; a Monday-Friday Daily Bread for the Christian athlete devo; a multiplying disciple driven 20-day adventure. We decided late in the game on the 20 Day Adventure and to attempt launching in conjunction with our Campus Winter Retreat season to expose the first iteration of the site with our closest audience: staff and students.
We are currently working on searchability, an archive, email notifications, a menu, and a host of other enhancements. Content will go up more frequently as we improve our capacity for production and consistency.
What about social media?We are well aware that to be a major player in the digital space, social media must be utilized effectively. We will continue to attempt synchronizing our social platforms and to use them more effectively. Even this week we are in the process of streamlining the look and flavor of our Facebook site, and knowing that the younger demographic is hanging out in different spaces (Instagram/Twitter/etc.), the goal is to continue moving toward those.
As we are trying to expand the audience who sees this content, re-posts of the content you find helpful will significantly increase our traction to the site and help re-brand how people think about us in the digital sphere. Thank you to those of you who have already been doing this for the past month! If you like something, “like” it and share it!!
We anticipate doing a secondary launch once we get to 2.0 that will include leveraging our athletic world friends’ social media platforms. More on that in the future.
Who is making the content?Brian and Ed are the primary content generators right now, especially as we are working through design and functionality issues. However, already several other writers have been invited to create material for both the 01 and 02 sections and many more will hopefully contribute as we move forward. We are very open to ideas for writers who you think could be helpful in generating the kind of content you see on the site now.
Where is the old athletesinaction.org site?Most of the material on the old site has moved to goaia.org. It may remain there indefinitely (with intentions to improve the look and functionality), but we are also exploring ways to graft some of the material back into the current athletesinaction.org site as it fits with the new direction.
Will there be an app?The plan is to have all the material currently available on the athletesinaction.org site also available on an app. Don’t be surprised if Brian’s original idea for “The Assist” as an app shows up soon!
How can I help?By letting us know how we can help you! What would you actually use? Of what you’ve seen so far, what is most helpful? If nothing, what would be?
Aside from ideas to make the site better, if you know people within your ministry or on your support team who would desire to be a part of this, please feel free to pass their info along and we will be quick to follow up with them. We need ideas, but ideas with solutions would be even better!
This is a skunkworks project that will take some time but has incredible upside if God chooses to bless our efforts. Pray for laborers and for ongoing creativity!