Leadership, usability, content strategy, and analytics are as important as a snazzy design when it comes to the success of your church website.
1. Who’s in charge? Is somebody in charge? Is anybody in charge?
Almost all of the pastors I know work overtime preparing sermons and shepherding the flock. That’s as it should be. Pastors should focus on pastoring, and delegate the responsibility of maintaining the church website to trustworthy, reliable stewards. Sometimes this can be done effectively on a volunteer basis. But volunteers often lose interest in the project over time. That is why it can be a good investment to pay someone to keep your church website up-to-date.
2. Is the church website easy-to-use, fast, and simple?
To paraphrase the apostle, does your church website “take every pixel captive”? In Planting an Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Rev. Ross Graham reminds us that a church website is a form of advertising.
“The purpose of advertising,” writes Rev. Graham, “is to get people to visit the church’s services of worship, where they will be exposed to the preaching of God’s Word. Therefore, such advertising must be factual and easily and quickly read” (emphasis mine).
In other words, sometimes overzealous web designers need to be reminded to restrain themselves. Visual pyrotechnics can actually hurt a site if they slow it down or amount to a confusing user interface.
3. Do you have a plan for driving traffic to the church website?
“If you build it, they will come.” Wouldn’t that be nice? Unfortunately, websites don’t work that way. Even though in principle a website is visible to the entire world, in practice you must implement a plan to make the intended audience of your church website aware of its existence. A few tips:
Many people will hear about your church via word of mouth. Have someone verify that your website uses semantic HTML markup for maximum visibility in search engines.
Avail yourself of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. Set up a Facebook page for your church as a complement to your church website.
Consider experimenting with targeted online advertising via Facebook or Google Ads.
Make sure that the URL of your church website is listed prominently on road signs or banners for your church, as well as on business cards and other print advertising materials.
4. Do you have a way to measure the effectiveness of your church website as an advertising tool?
Five More Talents takes time every month to analyze the site traffic statistics for every church website we serve. We share this information with church leaders and use it to identify ways to improve each church website. The importance of traffic analysis was the topic of our last feature article.
5. Does the church website make a good first impression?
Design is the first thing people will notice about your church website. Make sure the design of the website is aesthetically pleasing. Effective designs are distinctive and simple.
Three good questions — out of many — to ask about the design of your church website:
Is it based on some kind of visual metaphor? The visual metaphor can be overt (MailChimp’s banana-loving postman) or subtle and minimalistic (Google’s use of blue, red, orange, and green).
Does it respect “the fold”? The fold is the bottom border of your web browser window. As a general rule, the most important elements in a design should be “above the fold.” They should be visible without forcing the user to scroll.
Is the typography optimized for readability? One key factor is “characters per line.” Lines with more than 100 characters are usually less easy to read.