“Your church’s website is the front door to your church.”
– Thom S. Rainer, President and CEO, Lifeway
Do you want that door to be hard to open or difficult to find? Would you be concerned if the paint was peeling and it gave people splinters?
Of course you want your church website to be accessible, approachable and easy to navigate. And you want it to look fresh and modern, while accurately representing the unique character of your congregation. Better yet, you want it to actively connect and engage people.
If you have anything to do with your church website, you know that an easy-to-use and well-designed site that meets a multitude of needs is no small feat.
Before you start your next church website redesign, spend some time making sure you have these five ingredients for an effective church website.
1. Analytics Review
When you start a church website design, you’re going to encounter lots and lots of opinions about what should go where and how it should be organized. While you want to accommodate everyone and every department, it’s just not realistic. Familiarizing yourself with your current website’s performance metrics can help you build a case for how your new website should be structured and organized. Use a tool like Google Analytics to understand:
- The most popular areas of your website, as well as those that are not visited.
- The devices and browsers that people use to access your site.
- How long visitors stay on your site.
- How visitors flow through the pages of your site.
- What geographic areas your visitors come from.
Armed with this data, you can make strategic decisions that maximize your site’s effectiveness.
2. Mobile-First Mentality
American adults are now significantly more likely to own a smartphone than a laptop or desktop computer. The scales have tipped and now most websites see a majority of their visitors using smartphones and tablets. If your site is not optimized for mobile usage, you’re frustrating people. The design of your mobile site should not be an afterthought; it should be your primary consideration.
3. Outward-In Approach
Churches have a vocabulary and culture all their own. If you’ve grown up in church, worked at one, or been around one for any length of time, it starts to become familiar, and even second-nature. We know the lingo. We get the ministries. It’s fun to be a part of the club.
But that familiarity can be dangerous in the website design process. The church lingo and culture can feel very foreign to your website visitors that don’t come from a church background. That’s why we advocate an outward-in approach to church website design.
Forget about how your church is structured internally or how your ministries are managed. Set up your website so that it immediately makes sense to someone who knows nothing about your church’s innerworkings. Use vocabulary that is common to everyone and avoid “church words” that alienate people.
4. Intuitive Navigation
Developing the navigation of your website is probably the most critical, and challenging, part of the whole process. It will make or break your site.
Navigation is not the place to get creative. Strive for obvious.
A good way to test the intuitiveness of your website navigation is to watch someone new use your site. Ask them to find something specific, like your physical address, children’s ministry director or last week’s sermon video. Did they find it the first try or did they take a few wrong turns? Did they give up on the navigation and go to the search bar? Try this with several different people of various ages and familiarly with your church. You’ll learn something every time.
5. Foolproof Follow-Up
Your website isn’t an end in itself. We want it to be simply the first step in connecting people with each other and your church. It’s a mode of communication for people to express needs, seek involvement and ask questions.
There is nothing more frustrating than filling out a form, making a phone call or sending an email, only to receive nothing in return or be re-routed endlessly.
Make sure you have foolproof follow-up processes that check and double check that people who inquire via your website (or through other channels) get quick, helpful responses. Clearly assign this to one individual, not a group, where it’s easier to get confused about who responded. If a volunteer is responsible for this follow-up, ensure a staff member is also providing quality control