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As the first point of contact for many potential visitors, is your church website open and inviting or is it a closed door, hard to find and overgrown with distractions?Tuesday, November 20th, 2012
A Church website is a virtual front door to the life of your church, and should therefore be a presentable and welcoming experience for the visitor.
We would hate to think that someone might visit our church and receive no welcome, or have a question and be directed to four different people before finding an answer. We need to put the same care and attention into the church website as we put into making sure people feel welcomed and included on a Sunday morning.
For newcomers and regular attendees alike the church website should at the very minimum provide 3 major functions;
If your church website doesn’t present your church as an attractive community and place of worship then it is like closing the door on visitors. The following tips suggest seven ways you can improve your church website and encourage newcomers to visit.
The best way to give visitors an idea of how your church is made up is to use photographs. Very often churches will have a photographer already in the congregation, but the worst thing you can do is use an amateur. Poorly lit and composed photographs will be the most memorable thing about your website, and you really want the photographs to enhance the site. Have a professional take photographs of every ministry your church is involved in. That way each section of your site will be colourfully illustrated and a better picture will be painted of church life.
It seems obvious, but while researching church websites we found that many churches don’t make this information readily available on their websites, and certainly not in an intuitive and easy to find place. For Belfast City Vineyard, we made sure it was the first thing the visitor sees.
Many of the church websites we visited listed events from months ago, or news sections that hadn’t been updated since the “welcome to our new website” article! If you have a list of events or a news section please make sure that it is updated at least monthly. Nothing puts people off faster than a neglected website, as it shows lack of care and attention – something you definitely don’t want said about your church!
Many churches already record their sermons each week, but too few manage to take this a step further and add them for download via the website. With the rise in usage of smartphones and mp3 players, having a podcast that can be subscribed to easily means your message can be shared and listened to on the go, even if people haven’t made it to church that Sunday. On the Barton Evangelical Church website we added a dedicated audio sermon section with topics organised into series.
Depending on the demographic of your church, the likelihood is that a high percentage of your congregation already uses Facebook, and many will also be connected on Twitter and other social networking sites. These are great tools if you learn how to use them to adequately engage your audience. Share daily Bible verses, recommend some good books to read and remind people of upcoming events in the life of your church.
This section should be dedicated to getting to know the heart and values of your church, as well as providing key information and perhaps even an FAQ. A good idea might be to state the dress code, as churches can differ from being quite formal to quite relaxed, and this can confuse those who are new the church.
Standard fixed-width websites work great on laptops and desktop computers, but viewing them on a mobile phone can be a confusing experience. Very often mobile devices will simply shrink your website to fit the size of the screen, requiring visitors to zoom in and out just to read the text.
We use a responsive design technique which serves a different layout depending on the screen size of the device. This allows greater care and attention to be taken in providing a more suitable experience for mobile users.
If you don’t think this is important, take a look at your visitor statistics – these days we’re finding around 20% of all church website visitors are using mobile devices.
Mars Hill Church - As well as being a responsive (mobile friendly) design, Mars Hill provide sermons in both audio and video format, and use colourful graphics and photography throughout. The design of the site doesn’t distract the visitor from the content.
Barton Evangelical Church - Our own design for Barton Evangelical Church uses a mobile friendly responsive design, and includes a powerful content management system, allowing church staff to quickly and easily update the website with new events, sermons, photographs and content. Read more in our case study.
Bloomfield Presbyterian Church - While the Bloomfield site isn’t very mobile friendly, the menu structure is very easy to navigate and plenty of information is provided on each activity and ministry the church is involved in. The use of colourful photography and well designed graphics draws the eye and enhances the information well.
Belfast City Vineyard - Another of our own designs, the Belfast City Vineyard website is again powered by a flexible content management system, allowing church staff to update any section of the site in minutes. Professional photography has been used throughout and a lot of thought has gone into making information easy to find. Read our case study for more information.
As well as offering consultation on your existing site, we can help implement all of the above features and more. Our sites feature a content management system which is extremely simple to use, even for the technically challenged! Read about the benefits of having an easily updateable and mobile friendly church website on our mini-site: Responsive Church Website Design.
Andrew heads up creative direction at SOLID, managing projects and taking a hands on approach to client consultations and design decisions. Follow Andrew on twitter.
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