The Church has the best message in the world to communicate, but sometimes the way we communicate it leaves a little to be desired. Here are 5 things that your church might be getting wrong and what you can do to fix it.
1. Preaching to the Choir
Who is your website for? Some church websites assume on their home page that the average visitor is interested in the notes of the Church Council meeting, or the progress with the building fund or other internally focused messages. It is always best to assume that the visitor to your home page is completely new to the church. Think about what they might want to find out. What questions might they want the website to answer? Start with their needs and put your church business much deeper within the site.
2. Being Retro, but not in a good way
A simple a website is absolutely fine, but far too many church websites feel like they are stuck in the 90s. Garish colours, hit counters, scrolling marquees, non-mobile friendly layouts, novelty fonts etc. These days a modern, clean, mobile friendly website is within everyone’s reach. Sites like wix.com, squarespace.com and wordpress.com make the design process easy and the keep the cost light.
3. Making the site an afterthought
As interesting as it might be to read about the Easter service in June, keeping your site up to date is key if you want regular visitors. An out of date website is usually down to a few different reasons; maybe keeping the site up to date is not a high enough priority; the volunteer who is looking after the site is not available; or there isn’t enough content to keep updating the site with. The first step to addressing this is creating a culture where an out of date website is ‘not ok’, it needs to be taken seriously. Secondly, the load and the skills need to be shared so that enough people are able to update the site when needed. Lastly, spend some time thinking about what content could easily keep the site up to date. A feed of your social media can help. Embedded content like Premier’s news widgets can also help keep things up to date. Could you get a commitment from people in the church to write a regular thought for the day? Or could the vicar turn his sermon notes into a blog post each week? Following all of these considerations will help build steady flow of content on your site.
4. Saying a lot, all at once
When a visitor lands on your site you have just a handful of seconds before they decide whether to stay or close the browser. A common mistake is having too many messages on a page. The visitor won’t be able to figure out what’s important and consequently leave. Website home pages should be thought of a bit like tabloid front pages. There is always a main story and then teasers to other smaller stories deeper within the paper. ‘The main thing’ you want to say to your visitors must be the most prominent feature on the page. Then place smaller messaging boxes with links to secondary level items. Doing this will make your site a lot easier to understand.
5. People need GPS to find their way around
Assuming people hang around on your home page, the next step is to think about where they are going next? Some church websites stack in so much detail on 3-level deep menus that finding basic details such as the building location or church service times become mission impossible. The best navigation answers a question or states an action e.g. Who, where, when? Or Get connected. Structure your navigation so that the most common things people will want to find are up front and not buried. Keep to a minimum number of levels and items then finally, test it. Nielson once did some research that said that the vast majority of useful website feedback can be gained from just 5 people reviewing the site. Ask people to use your site like someone who didn’t know the church and see if they can find the information that type of person might be looking for.
That’s it, I hope above list was helpful. Please feel free to add you own ideas for common website mistakes in the comments below.