Since its launch in 1998, site has seen upgrades, redesigns and expansion
By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — Although there was no cake or balloons to mark the occasion, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board recently celebrated a birthday for one its most important team members: The TBMB website.
With little fanfare but plenty of significance, the site hit the 20-year mark in June.
The site has had more than 12 million visits in its 20-year run, and has received accolades for its design and functionality. The site has undergone three complete “makeovers” through the years, continuously evolving with the times.
“One certainty about websites is that they are in a constant state of change and adjustment,” said Chris Turner, the TBMB director of communications, “and I think one of the reasons our site is successful is that we are very intentional about tracking new technology and implementing it. Our site is a constant work in progress as we seek ways to better serve Tennessee Baptists. We’re always open to feedback and suggestions.”
The launch of the TBMB website — in June of 1998 — officially ushered in a new era, although the technology involved with the launch would be viewed as primitive by today’s standards.
TBMB media specialist , known as the website “guru” to his co-workers, remembers just how different the technology landscape looked at the time of the launch, and he chuckles at how much has changed.
“When tnbaptist.org was launched in 1998, it consisted of a few dozen static pages made with Microsoft FrontPage — an application that went out of circulation in 2003,” he said. “The pages were displayed exactly as they were stored, and every change was made manually offline, to be uploaded.”
noted that the TBMB launched its first database-driven site several years later, in 2004, and it included databases of the events calendar, churches, associations, staff members, and B&R articles.
“This was also when we started using dynamic content, where the computer writes different pieces of information when a user visits the page,” he said. “Shortly after that, we introduced online messenger registration for the annual meeting. The current site is WordPress-based, where changes are made online.”
At the time of the launch, the TBMB website was “all-encompassing” and served as the home base for all of the organization’s ministries.
Since then, the site has branched off and now includes three additional sites — Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief (tndisasterrelief.org, which launched in 2015), the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org, launched in 2015), and the Tennessee Baptist Conference Centers (tnbaptistcamps.org, launched in 2017).
“The Internet has obviously evolved significantly over the past 20 years and it’s been important for us to evolve with it,” said Turner. “We are always looking for the best and most effective way to provide information.”
Prior to the launch of the Baptist and Reflector site three years ago, many of the stories from the B&R print edition were posted on the TBMB website and were archived there.
“A site like the B&R website is essential,” said . “People still like to read news stories; the only thing that’s changed is how they want to get them.
“The B&R website isn’t meant to compete with the print edition; they complement each other,” he added.
The B&R website was designed with the goal of giving visitors a “virtual experience” that was as similar as possible to picking up the newspaper off the coffee table.
“I think everyone agreed that the B&R site should preserve the overall look and feel of a print issue,” said. “You can’t just ignore the history of not only one of the oldest Baptist state newspapers, but one of the oldest overall newspapers in the country. At the same time, it had to be a site that could be user-friendly on desktop computers and mobile devices.”
The unveiling of the original TBMB website was the lead story in the May 20, 1998 edition of the Baptist and Reflector, with the article announcing that “the Tennessee Baptist Convention will go worldwide on June 1 when it launches its new website.”
Denise Scott, former ministry specialist, was a member of the “web development team” that helped design the site. She was quoted in the B&R story, saying: “We looked at how we could enhance communications with Tennessee Baptists and others.”
Twenty years later, that’s still the overall purpose and mission of the site.
“Our goal is to provide a site that helps people locate the information they need to benefit their ministries,” said Turner.