The challenge to create a modern Bible study experience

Reading the Bible.

It is a chance to learn the history of our faith, to discover the great mysteries of our Lord, and to read the of the love that Christ lived for us.  It is all these things, and yet it is so much more; it is a chance to commune with the Most High God.

When you are a blessed to be a part of a project whose aim is to somehow create an environment to enrich the reading experience with modern design and tools, it can only serve to continually humble, astound and excite you.  Knowing that each choice you make might help bring someone to a deeper understanding of some Biblical truth or - could it be - help someone who is seeking answers find the grace of God... there are no words to describe the literal excitement - and, often, exhaustion - that comes from working on a project like this daily. And nothing more nerve-racking than releasing your ideas, designs and code out into the wild and asking: does it work? did it help? do these tools help you study better? are you more engaged than before?  It has been an incredible honor to be a part of the team.


Last week, we released our latest update to the site, which introduced even more translations and, perhaps the key to a modern study of the Bible, more integrated content. There is an inherent problem with the way our rising generation learns and studies; we jump from link to link as we run through the internet. We Google search and train our brains to pick out what the most promising link is; we hit it, we scan the page, and decide in moments if this is the content we were looking for.  Then, we hit the back button and search again.

A psychological test from 2001 is referenced by Nicholas Carr in "The Shallows," where two sets of readers were given the same story, but presented in different ways.  One was presented straight forward and linearly, the other included links for more information throughout the text.  The hypothesis was that the enriched text would create a better experience for the readers:

Hypertext readers again reported greater confusion following the text, and their comments about the story's plot and imagery were less detailed and less precise than those of the linear-text readers.  With hypertext, the researchers concluded, "the absorbed and personal mode of reading seems to be discouraged." The readers' attention "was directed toward the machinery of the hypertext and its functions rather than to the experience offered by the story." The medium used to present the words obscured the meaning of the words.

Nicholas Carr, The Shallows

The challenge is to find a way to enable the modern features and familiarity of the web to enhance the Biblical study, not distract or overpower. So we thought: what if we take the need for data mining away, and let the discovery of relevant content happen naturally? What if, instead of jumping around the page to search and hitting the back button when you found the wrong thing, what if you always knew you found the right thing first?

It's not often that, 9 months after you release something you can look back and think: we may have gotten it right.  We may have created something here that truly meets the goals we had; did we do something good?

At, your default study space is divided into two sections: the main reading pane and the cross reference pane.  In the main reading pane, you can travel through the Biblical text at your own pace, reading verse-by-verse in a linear fashion.  But on the right hand side, keeping constantly updated with what you're reading, are a series of content tools that update to show you additional content that references your reading location.  So, if you're on John 3:16, off to the side of your reading pane will be a deep list of free content (and paid) content that can help further explain whatever verse you're reading.  You get a preview of the content before you open it.  And, if you'd like, once you open it you can slide the tab over to right so, for example, if you want the study Bible notes to always update with your location they will.

We don't think that content has to simply stand on its own anymore; it can be a fully integrated experience. You can read the Biblical text in a linear fashion and, when something needs more explanation, you can glance to see just how much deeper you can go... or have the dictionary tool open so you can figure out that word that simply doesn't make sense.

This week, we introduced new content so you can buy what you need when you needs it, with 24-hour access to books starting at just $0.99. You can dive in or just dip your toe in to the resources that are available.  The story here, though, isn't simply that we're making the content so readily accessible - it's how you access it.  It's the fully integrated experience.

It's something that I hope we got right for you.