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From Local Unit Websites to a Suite of Tools Twitter Facebook Print E-mail
Written by Tom Johnson   
Thursday, 10 May 2012

If you’re in the bishopric or stake presidency, you recently received a letter highlighting the new resources available on the Tools menu on LDS.org. The Tools menu provides a suite of applications, fully replacing the old “Local Unit Website” interface.

LDS.org Tools

The tools available on the Tools menu of LDS.org replaces the old Local Unit Websites. 

You may be familiar with many of these tools -- the replacement of Local Unit Websites has been taking place gradually, tool by tool over the past several years.

Previously, all tools were listed at stakes.lds.org. On that Local Unit Website, the tools were listed on the left: News and Information, Lesson Schedules, Ward Calendar, Membership Directory, Leadership Directory, Missionary, and Resources.  You can still access Local Unit Websites at stakes.lds.org, but there’s little reason to go there. (The site will officially be sunset later this year.)

The new version of LDS.org has a suite of tools. Think of the suite somewhat like Microsoft Office’s suite of applications – each is an individual application, whole in its own right, but with a lot of integration points between the tools.

Rather than listing the applications on the left, the applications are available from the Tools menu anywhere on LDS.org.

Going to one of the tools does not remove you from the LDS.org experience. You can still access all the other content on LDS.org, regardless of the tool you’re using.

Here’s a brief description of each of the main options on the Tools menu on LDS.org:

Tool

Description

Date released

Calendar

The calendar for your ward and stake, showing events, meetings, and other activities.

2010

Directory

A directory of members for your ward and stake, showing contact information for each household.

2010

Maps

Meetinghouse, temple, and other Church facility locations, as well as member addresses.

2010

My Study Notebook

A personal, private space on LDS.org for you to view highlights and notes that you added to content you’re reading on LDS.org.

2011

Clerk Resources

A portal for clerks that includes many features previously only available in MLS, such as statistical reports.

2011

Leader Resources

A portal for leaders, such as bishops and stake presidents, that includes tools to make their responsibilities easier.

2011

Lesson Schedules

A schedule for classes you attend, such as Sunday School or Young Men, showing when lessons are scheduled and links to lesson material.

2012

Newsletter

A blog-like site for local unit leaders to provide news and other updates to members.

2012

For lengthier descriptions of each tool, see LDS.org Tools menu. Note that Newsletter is not yet on the Tools menu because it is still in beta. However, you can access Newsletter by going to https://beta.lds.org/member-news

Clerk Resources and Leader Resources are available, but you won’t see them unless you’re signed in with your LDS Account. You must be a clerk or leader in the bishopric/stake presidency to see the options.

MLS

Even though Clerk Resources and Leader Resources are available, these tools are still evolving as well. MLS will eventually be entirely accessible online through the Clerk and Leader Resource portals. The reporting features are already available. Clerks can process membership updates online too. However, the financial component, still in development, is something that still must be done on MLS (for now).

We’re not too far away from a time when the computer in the clerk’s office, the only computer with MLS installed, will be less important. With meetinghouse Internet available anywhere in a meetinghouse, and the ability to sign in with your LDS Account, leaders and clerks will be able to make updates from their own Internet-capable devices, either in a meetinghouse or from home.

Tools Roadmap

What’s missing from this suite of tools? Right now, two more tools are on the horizon: Home and Visiting Teaching, and Member Resources. The Home and Visiting Teaching application, a long-time request that has been frequently home-built by wards, will eventually see light in an official application on LDS.org. Leaders will have access to sign into LDS.org and input numbers about visits conducted during the month.

Member Resources, also on the horizon, is still in the prototype stage. Member Resources will pull together relevant information across the suite of tools – Calendar, Lesson Schedules, Newsletter, and other applications – to provide a customized dashboard-style view for you and your family. You will be able to see all pertinent information in one condensed spot, with links to click for more detail.

Single Sign On

Because of the sensitivity of the information, nearly all of these tools require you to sign in with your LDS Account. LDS Account provides a single-sign-on experience across all of these applications. Rather than having a separate login for each application, you sign in to LDS.org with your LDS Account, and your credentials are passed from one Church website to another in a seamless fashion.

LDS Account also connects you to a specific ward and location, allowing these applications to customize the information shown to you.

Continual Improvement

The advantages of having a suite of applications (rather than a single local unit website) are numerous. As you explore these individual tools, you’ll see that they have much more functionality and appeal than the previous tools. They’re not just a reorganization of menus or layout. The tools have been entirely re-written, re-designed, re-thought, and re-architected. They align with a modern design, fitting into the landscape of Web 2.0.

Because the Church’s software development follows an agile methodology, these tools are never quite finished. Software teams are constantly working on the next iteration, taking feedback from what has been released to incorporate it into the next version.

This is partly why the Tools menu was not replaced in one big release, but rather replaced piece by piece over several years. Designers and developers have learned a great deal from early releases, and have incorporated this learning into the latest tools.

 

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