Mormon.org was recently selected by Interactive Media Awards (IMA) as one of the Top Ten Websites of the Year. IMA candidates are judged by a panel of leading web-related professionals working with the Interactive Media Council. These judges include professionals from businesses like Microsoft, Time Warner Inc., and Verizon. Notable past and present IMA winners include Adidas, Mercedes-Benz, New York Life, and Electronic Arts (EA).
On Mormon.org, members can create profiles to share their faith, experiences, and testimony with others.
The importance of this award is further validation of the changes made to mormon.org over the last two years. Senior Manager Ron Wilson said the site has always been effective in telling the world about the basic doctrines of the restored gospel, but prior to the site changes, it did not effectively introduce the outside world to the members of the Church or how Mormons live their lives.
Initial Efforts toward a New Site
In 2009 a national Church-sponsored survey revealed that few nonmembers had a firm understanding of who Mormons are and how they live with the rest of the world’s people. Ron says Church leadership felt it was important to begin sharing that message.
It’s important to help those who aren’t LDS see that Church members are very much like them, Ron explained. On the website, members can create their own profile pages and use their testimonies and experiences as a way of sharing the gospel. They can also link their profile page to their own social media sites (such as their blog, Facebook, or Twitter page).
Following the 2009 survey, website developers created a series of site concepts and then evaluated them through user research. Research participants identified the elements they liked in each of the concepts, and developers took those elements and built them into a prototype.
The prototype site was then tested among focus groups during a two-week period, with each focus group participating for two days. Focus group participants were given assignment sheets requiring them to interact with the site in various ways and report back on what they liked and disliked. These reports were then compiled and given to site developers, who made the necessary changes immediately. The site was then reevaluated with more participants in a new iteration.
The New Member-Powered Mormon.org
The new, member-powered version of mormon.org was launched last year. The new mormon.org is an open environment for visitors to connect and interact with members of the Church, allowing greater understanding of Mormonism through the testimonies and experiences of its members. Latter-day Saints can create user profiles that feature their photos, interests, testimonies, and gospel experiences (some of which are shared via video), as well as links to social media.
For example, in the Our Faith and Our Values sections, which give visitors a basic understanding of what we believe and how we live, readers can also view member-generated material.
Relevant member-generated profiles are integrated with doctrine and concept sections.
Along with written and video explanations of gospel topics, these sections feature member video testimonials and member responses to frequently asked questions like “Why do Mormons go on missions?”, “Why do we need a Savior?” and “How has the Book of Mormon brought you closer to God?”
Visitors are also able to chat with missionaries online, as well as request a personal meeting with full-time missionaries.
Feedback and Influence of the New Site
The new mormon.org was met with an immediate increase in interest. The average time visitors spent on the site doubled within a few months and interest has continued to grow since. Currently, the average time spent on the site has risen to about seven minutes per visitor. In the month of June 2011 alone, the site attracted over 1.4 million unique visitors—the highest one-month total to date.
Mormon.org is also becoming a valuable tool for full-time missionaries. Missionaries use it to show Church investigators how to connect with members of the Church in their surrounding areas with whom they share similar interests. Other leaders have also worked to promote the site as a missionary opportunity to work with the youth of the Church.
“Mormon.org is a wonderful site to learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members,” said Ron Wilson. “One thing that will make the site better is to have more Church members create their profiles. We encourage all members to add their profile at mormon.org/create. It’s a wonderful and easy way to get involved in the conversation.”