I am not a web designer and I’ve never played one on TV. I don’t write code, I’m not a graphic artist and I’m not in marketing or sales. But I have visited literally hundreds of church websites.
One of the things we do at the Unstuck Group when a church goes through a Health Assessment with us is we take some time to research their website before we ever actually get onsite with that church. You can learn a lot about a church by spending some time clicking around on their website.
There’s a lot of work that goes into building a great church website. Just like churches, their websites come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. But there is a list of required ingredients that I’d encourage every church to start with.
Design it for the Guest
The best church websites are designed for the person who has never been to your church. Is it intuitive and easy for people who are unfamiliar with Jesus and churchy language to navigate? Unless you want to build a church for church people don’t design a website designed for church people. Stay away from “churchy” language and “cool ministry” names that people outside of the church have no clue what they mean or what they are. Can guests navigate the site easily without having to scroll or click too many times from the main landing page?
Give People what They’re Looking For
When guests check out your website they’re looking for a few things. In no particular order guests to your website are looking for where and when you gather. Do you have a google maps link on your site that makes it easy for guests to get there? Guests are also looking for what the experience will be like when they arrive. Videos and pictures can help with this, so can a brief description of the experience so people know what they’re getting themselves into. Guests also typically look for what the kids’ ministry is like if they have kids. They check out the staff page to see if there are “people like them” on staff (would they fit in). They may also check out your story…especially if it’s presented in a compelling manner…why do you exist, how did you get where you are, what are you like, what you’re trying to get done right now and why people should jump in and be a part of it.
Look and Feel
There are going to be a lot of opinions about the look and feel of your church website. It’s like a sermon or the volume of the worship music at your church…it’s on display for everyone to see…some people will think “it’s too loud” and some people will think “it’s not loud enough.” Wherever you land make sure the look and feel represents the true identity and personality of your church. You can do this through videos, images, stories, even the language you use. All of it should represent your culture well so people know what they’re getting. There’s nothing worse than checking out a church website that sets your expectations in a particular direction only to have those expectations undermined once you actually get there. Likewise, don’t hide a great church behind a poor website.
Measure what Works
This may a bit of a no brainer, but I’ve discovered that few churches actually track their clicks, page views, and metrics on their website. If something is not working on your site, don’t be afraid to change it or take it down off of your site.
Nuts and Bolts
These may go without saying but make sure your site is mobile friendly. More people access websites through mobile devices than desktop devices these days. Also make sure your site is secure so search engines like Google don’t burry it.