How do you design and construct a planned community for 2.2 million people?

The General Assembly Mission Council’s (GAMC) Creative Services team has been working on just such a task — a new GAMC Web site — and on Sept. 24 Creative Services Director Dianna Ott and Mission Communications Director Rob Bullock showed the council a preview of the  new site.

The top priority for the new site — the first top-to-bottom overhaul of the Web site in 10 years — “is to create a community where people can gather and talk and build networks together,” Ott said, “a place where Presbyterians can download material, tell each other their stories, load and watch videos of ministry and mission around the church.”

The new site is scheduled to be unveiled at the 219th General Assembly July 3-10 in Minneapolis. And it will take all the time between now and then to complete the massive project.

Bullock recalled the conversion of a closed naval base in his native Orlando, Fla., into a new planned community. “It’s the same with the GAMC Web site,” he said. “We have a big sprawling industrial space with 31,000 pages. We’ve been thinking, ‘what else could this be.’”

Once the “basic architecture” is in place, Bullock continued, “we get ready for the move, which is like moving all the stuff out of a 200-room house — we have to decide what moves to the new house, what gets gived to Goodwill [in this case, material that’s valuable enough to be preserved at facilities like the Presbyterian Historical Society] and what goes to the landfill.”

The “model home” that Ott showed the council is dramatically different than the current site, with larger photos, dynamic presentation with a “carousel” of rotating features, an improved search box at the bottom of the home page, links to social networking sites popular with Presbyterians, “multiple avenues” to information and resource links, “calls to action” so visitors to the site can respond to what they see, and a feedback function so readers can comment on anything they see on the site.

Also, Bullock added, “We want to create a site that represents who we are as a church, so scripture is front and center” on the new GAMC site. “The church is not just another social service agency and the Web site should communicate that,” he said.

Though the formal unveiling of the new Web site will occur in Minneapolis — where the 219th General Assembly will take place July 3-10, 2010 — “you may start to see pieces of it next spring,” Bullock said. “You don’t just flip a switch on this kind of thing, it happens gradually.”