When it comes to launching or redesigning your church website there are so many incredible options available. If you’ve got plenty of design experience, you may create your website from scratch. If you have no design experience whatsoever there are multiple companies that specialize in church websites that are not only easy to design but simple to setup and maintain. If you’re looking for an option that’s somewhere in between, many churches have used a wordpress.org site with amazing results.
It’s easy to get caught up in the aesthetics of your website but the most important part of having a website is that it’s easy to access, view, and navigate. Having too little, or too much, information on your website can be a major distraction. So, where’s that balance? What does your website really need to give visitors the information they need? I’m glad you’re here, because I hope to answer all of those questions for you.
So, before your site goes live, make sure you’ve checked off these 6 Church Website Essentials to ensure your page is ready for the real world-wide-web.
Usually, if I’m looking for a website my iPhone is the most convenient way to do so and I’m not alone. Because we carry the internet in our pockets we no longer have to wait until we’re behind a computer screen to get the information we’re looking for.
There’s an awesome article on Smart Insights called “Mobile Marketing Statistics Compilation” with information from multiple data sources about mobile versus desktop internet use, horizontal web view versus vertical web view on mobile devices, and a ton of other awesome statistics that are worth checking out. This doesn’t discount the necessity for a desktop friendly site, in fact if you read the article the statistics show a very clear case for both desktop and mobile friendly websites.
If you’re building your website from scratch this may be something you’ll need to be careful about. Even certain WordPress themes can be a bit of a hassle to use if they aren’t setup to be used on a mobile device so keep that in mind when choosing a theme. However, options like Clover Sites and Share Faith are setup for optimal use in most mobile browsers but it’s always a good idea to look over your website from a smart phone and a tablet to see the layout in both vertical and horizontal view before making the big announcement.
There are tons of articles online about the many methods you can use to optimize your website for a faster load speed but I wan’t to give you a few options that are easy to implement.
- Reduce the number of unnecessary images on your website.
- Unless it’s for a large webpage header, make sure the images you do choose to keep are a maximum of 400 KB.
- Keep the content of each page to a minimum. Provide the necessary information for each page, but don’t add excessive information, embedded videos, and images that aren’t crucial.
Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat, released a fascinating article on Time.com called “What You Think You Know About the Web is Wrong”. He outlines four major web myths and discusses how a website has about 15 seconds to capture the viewer. So, what if your website takes an average of 10 seconds to load? That only gives someone five seconds to browse your home page, if they’ve held out that long.
This is a big one! Social Media information is very important BUT only if you’re active on those social platforms. If you have links for Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram but you’re really only active on Facebook, there’s no need to clutter your website with the other link icons. Dream Grow published an article with a summary of the top 15 social media platforms and while Facebook is still number one, it doesn’t mean other platforms aren’t beneficial. Statistics can be a great tool but it’s always best to remember your target audience. Depending on your geographical location and age demographic it might be a better option to focus on Instagram or even SnapChat.
If there’s one thing I really don’t like to see on a church website, it’s stock photos. It’s perfectly acceptable to use a generic photo of spaghetti from Pexels.com to announce your upcoming spaghetti dinner but if you’re using photos of people that don’t attend your church or even photos of a church that obviously isn’t yours, that will almost guarantee that the viewer of your website will not be attending a service.
I would even argue that a few mediocre pictures that genuinely show your location, worship environment, members, and events, will be far more effective than purchasing photos just because they’re high quality and appealing. Ask your congregation for any amateur photographers that would be interested in taking some pictures over the course of a few weeks. You might be surprised at the outcome! Not only will it give you genuine and realistic photos for your website, but it will allow members that may not have otherwise volunteered to feel like they’re contributing to the church with something they’re passionate about.
This ties into fast loading time as well but it’s worth making it a separate point. If a viewer is only going to give your website 15 seconds, how much content are you going to put in front of them? Pages that by nature tend to be a bit more lengthy, like blog posts or detailed reports, are the exception but it’s a good idea to keep most pages on your website as brief as possible.
For each page one or two photos, a simple paragraph, and a couple of links to other pages they may want to view is all you’ll really need. If they’re overwhelmed with information at first site it’s not likely that they’ll read any of it but if you give them something short to look over, they’ll give it a shot. They can always navigate to another page or reach out if they have more questions which leads me to my last point.
Detailed contact information is so important! I know it’s incredibly tempting to embed a contact form that forwards to a generic email but if you actually provide a separate section along with that contact form that includes a few email addresses and phone numbers for various departments, it feels more personal and inviting.
It’s also incredibly important to include your address, a map if possible, your main office phone number, and your staffed hours so the person that’s visiting your website knows when they can expect an answer to their phone call or a response to their email. For most people that have attended church the majority of their lives, they know that it’s not unusual for a church to be closed on a weekday because they’re open on Sundays and sometimes Saturdays as well. However, someone that has never attended church before might not know that.
At the end of the day, we want to reach more people for Christ and impact our communities with the love and grace that He has given to us. In order to do this, we have to make sure that they have what they need to feel comfortable visiting with our church family. That doesn’t always mean the flashiest website or the best photos, it means expressing a genuine desire to welcome them into God’s house and do life together.
What did you think of this article? Are there any essentials you’d like to add to the list? We’d love to hear from you!