Resource Review: BibleGateway.com

My first impressions of the new and improved BibleGateway.com

BibleGateway-Review
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For many years now, those of us who choose to read the Bible seriously have had two separate experiences when it comes to engaging God's Word. I'll refer to them as the "study experience" and the "quick-reference experience."

The study experience is when we're settling down to read the Bible in earnest. This is our devotional experience -- our "quiet time" in the common Evangelical parlance. The study experience involves settling in a familiar place for an extended period of time.

It often includes coffee or tea, maybe some breakfast or a snack. It's the well-loved chance to feast on the bounty of God's Word.

And, notably, the study experience usually centers around a printed version of the Bible. This is our "go to" Bible -- the one we carry to church and group gatherings. It's the Bible we take notes in or highlight so that we can remember encounters with God's Spirit over the creep of years.

The quick-reference experience is different. This is when we're diving into the text and then diving back out into life. This is when we're searching for that key verse or that specific phrase we want to remember -- when we need to skim the Scriptures as a source of information rather than a vehicle for transformation.

For these reasons and more, many of us have relied on websites and other electronic resources as the primary tools for our quick-reference experiences with God's Word.

And in the past decade, no electronic resource has been more reliable or useful for our quick-reference needs than BibleGateway.com.

Now that I've had a chance to explore the relaunched BibleGateway experience, I'm happy to announce that the premier Bible website has become even better. In fact, I won't be surprised if the new features on BibleGateway.com convince many people to use it as their "go to" Bible study resource.

Same Great Experience

BibleGateway has always been a quick and reliable source for engaging the Bible. The search feature has been top notch for years, and it remains so in the new website. The ability to quickly cycle through multiple versions and translations has been a wonderful tool, and it remains so.

In short, everything you've always appreciated about BibleGateway will remain at your service, including a number of features you may not have been aware existed -- features such as:

Great New Features

So, everything you liked about the old BibleGateway.com is available and functional in the new BibleGateway.com. But there's a lot of new things to like, as well.

For example, the new design of the website looks great. It's clean and feels less cluttered than the old website. The design also delivers a calm confidence as I zip around the different portions and passages of God's Word.

Next, the new features.The folks at BibleGateway have already written helpful summaries of the major new features -- located at the new BibleGateway blog, no less. So, I won't go into a lot of detail in writing an overview of these features.

Instead, let me briefly talk about the three changes that have me most excited.

Keep Notes and Highlights Forever
One of the major new features for BibleGateway is the ability to create a user account, which in turn allows you to save your preferences and other information from use to use and device to device. This is a helpful feature.

But what really caught my attention is the new ability for users to highlight different portions of the biblical text (in several different colors) and take notes that can be connected to specific portions of Scripture. This is huge! This what we love so much about the worn-out printed Bibles we've carried around for years -- even decades. Those Bibles are a collection of our growing thoughts and maturing interactions with God's Spirit and God's Word. They are a testimony to our relationship with God.

And now, thanks to this new technology, we can have the same experience on a website that offers greater accessibility and more stability than the printed text. When you highlight verses or make notes on BibleGateway.com, the BibleGateway mobile site, or the BibleGateway app -- those notes and highlights will be saved and accessible through all of those different access points.

That's a big deal for me, and I think it will become a major new feature for many users -- especially those in younger generations.

View Multiple Translations at the Same Time
As I mentioned above, BibleGateway.com has always been a great way to cycle through multiple versions and translations of the biblical text. But the new BibleGateway allows users to view multiple translations at the same time as side-by-side copies of the text. No more flipping back and forth through the menu options; no more hitting the "back" button to find the translation you liked better.

Viewing multiple translations is helpful for everyday Bible readers because it allows us to gain a broader perspective on different texts -- especially passages that can be more difficult to understand. Plus, viewing multiple Bible versions is a necessity for authors and editors like me who need to publish Bible studies for different translations or properly cite Bible references.

The new side-by-side feature on BibleGateway makes all of this faster and easier.

Mobile Makes Sense Again
If you tried to use the old BibleGateway.com on a mobile device, you may have had a less-than-positive experience. I know I have at times. That's why I'm excited to see that the new BibleGateway.com can roll with the punches and adapt to fit on different devices with different screen sizes. This is basically an example of catching up with the times, but it's still nice to see.

Weaknesses

As with any relaunch of a popular website, I'm sure some people will be miffed or frustrated because things aren't exactly the same as the old website. Buttons have been moved.

Features are in different places. Some habits will need to be re-learned. I don't consider that a weakness as much as a necessity -- but I know some fill find it annoying.

The only true weakness I've identified in my tinkering with the new BibleGateway.com is that notes and highlights are separate across different Bible versions. For example, if I highlight Genesis 1:1 in yellow and create a note for the NIV translation, that highlight and note will not carry over if I switch to the HCSB translation.

What this means on a practical level is that I need to stick to a single primary translation if I want to get good use out of the notes and highlight features. That's unfortunate, because everything else about the new BibleGateway.com is so flexible.

Summary

The new BibleGateway.com is a great tool for Bible study of all kinds -- including those looking for a satisfying study experience through an electronic text. I'm excited for the new possibilities available through this new website. I believe they will enhance my engagement with God's Word, and I hope very much the same is true for you.