‘m not a church website designer, never played one on TV, and I don’t speak geek. However, I spend a fair amount of time looking at church websites every week. And some of them… I’d say maybe even most of them… need to be redesigned. Granted, my reasons for looking at theses sites are not the same as the average user’s, if an average user even exists. But if there is one glaring observation I can make, I would say that most church websites don’t seem to know who their audience is.
Is your website primarily for visitors? Or is it for your “members only?” Is it a place where people can find out who and where you are? Or is it the place where members can listen to the latest sermon, sign up for the church retreat, and read the latest newsletter? Or is it both? Too many churches seem to design for one or the other of those audiences but I would suggest it needs to be for both audiences. You need to carefully consider who your audience is and think like they think when you design your website. Here are three of the most important things to consider:
1) When and Where. I was corresponding via email with a church about scheduling a performance, as my travels would put me right in their neighborhood—or so I thought. According to their website I had the right church name and right city name…. what I didn’t have right was the state. My itinerary was off by about 3,000 miles! Yes, there are thousands of “First” and “Trinity” churches and lots of cities with same names on this planet. It is amazing to me how many churches make you click through several pages just to find an address or to learn how to contact you. Think like a visitor, maybe someone who just moved into the community and is looking for a church. You should have your address on the first page… complete with city and state. And if I am that visitor, the chances are pretty good that I want to know the times for your worship services. This should be on the very first page—the homepage of your website.
2) Keep Things Current. If you are going to have a website—and you should—then keep things up-to-date. A calendar of events is not much use if the events posted are three years old (not an exaggeration!). If you publish a staff listing, make sure it is current as well. True story for me is the time I showed up to speak at a church using the church website as my source of information. I sat in front of a vacant lot… the church had moved but never updated the website to reflect that change. You may not have the time or energy to have a website with constantly changing content (blogs, calendars, sign-ups, etc.) But take the time to make sure that what you do have on your website is current. Think of your website as the now almost obsolete Yellow Pages. At the very least, keep your listing up to date!
3) Truth in Advertising. When I show up at a church to perform, one of the comments I often hear is, “you look just like your picture.” Occasionally someone will make my day and say, “you look younger than your picture,” but one thing I never want to hear is, “you look older than your picture.” Church websites should hold to that same standard. A lot of churches use a template with a predesigned website where you just fill in your own text. The photos are often generic and misleading, giving a very different representation of who you really are. Photos that feature young families, and a racially diverse group lead us to believe that that is the makeup of your congregation. Then when we show up, and we see that the congregation is all over the age of 50 and doesn’t even have a nursery, we feel misled. We didn’t get what was advertised. Consider using real photos of your congregation and include some shots of what the church really looks like. Be authentic in your representation. Consider including some pictures of what a worship service really looks like. Traditional or contemporary, rock band or church organ, suit and tie or jeans and t-shirt. It doesn’t matter. There are people looking for both styles. When I show up at a your church I want to be able to say, “you look just like your picture.”
Websites are essential in this day and age. The phrase “do you have a business card” has been replaced with “do you have a website?” There are a lot of things one can put on a website. It is your virtual brochure and a great way to communicate in our current world. Taking the time to use this medium effectively is worth the time and effort.
What other things do you think every church website “must have”?Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 1 comments