7 things about church website design Pt.1

Here are 7 things David Bunce wishes he knew about church website design before he started. In part one of this two-part article, he explores how money and people involved need to be seriously considered before you start... 

I’ve been designing websites for churches for over 7 years, three of them as my main source of income and a way of putting food on the table. I love my job and I love the challenge of discovering new and innovative ways to share the gospel of Jesus. Over that time, the web and technologies available have changed a lot and I have learnt a lot. I have also learnt a lot about working with churches and charities and the particular challenges and problems that this sort of web work posts.

1. Although budgets are often very tight, the right money can frequently be found for the right project

When I started, I was very aware that churches didn’t have a lot of money available and that budgets were very tight. Up until about a year ago, I priced my services accordingly – that meant that, in many cases, the amount I got paid did not reflect the amount of work I was putting in and the amount of experience and skill I was bringing to the table.

What I have learnt, however, is that given the right project, the right vision and the right design solution, the money is often available to create a winning website. For those that don’t or aren’t willing to put up the money, then perhaps a web designer isn’t what they are looking for at this moment.

I’ve blogged about this at greater length elsewhere, but I have become unapologetic about charging fairly for my work – as I said, web design is the main way I pay the rent, put food on the table, pay ever increasing University tuition fees (and believe me, they hurt) and hopefully be able to afford to get married fairly debt-free.

The amount charged doesn’t just represent the hours I work on a project, but also the buying of equipment and software and even more importantly, the untold hours I spend learning new techniques and improving my skills to best be able to spend my time serving churches.

2. Good content is even more important on church websites than on other websites

I have spent more time than I can fathom talking about the important of good content on websites. I have badgered on about telling stories. I have laboured the distinction between a church website, where people are invited to take part in God’s project of redemption in a local context, and a church notice board inviting people to bowling at 7pm on a Wednesday night. Ask any previous client of mine and I am sure they will testify to my broken record nature.

I do because I genuinely believe that a good website stands or falls on the quality of its content. It’s the content and the story we are telling that might make the difference between a non-churched person deciding to visit a church or not. This stuff really matters.

That is why when I am involved in a web design project, I spend easily as much time talking about content and storytelling as I do talking about colours, pictures, shapes and whitespace.

3. Committees and meetings are so often fatal

I know this is the greatest heresy for a Baptist to say, but getting church web designs mixed up in a meeting or committee of more than three people is fatal. What was a clear design process based on meeting set objectives and responding to set challenges suddenly becomes an opportunity for everyone to say their favourite colour, image, picture or push their own agenda.

Decisions stop being based on what works best for the design and instead begin to be based on people’s personal favourites. Work has to be redone – and the end result is often a much weaker design. What’s worse is that this indecision is reflected in higher bills.

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