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Websites

Websites: the community reaching out to you

Roughly 55% of people in the average American city have lived in that community for 5 years or less…

…which means a website is the KEY way they are going to find you.

Unkempt

 

An unattractive, neglected website is the same as a churchyard that is un-mowed and disheveled with boarded-up windows.

When someone visits your site and finds outdated information, it would be the same as driving up to the church and seeing the outside look like this photograph.

 

 

Your website is the front door of the church in the online world.

 

Your website should be accurate, fresh and attractive.

 

Think of it primarily for the visitor and non-member – for those NOT in the know.

Content is king –  putting CONTENT on your website should be an important, valued process. It should involve a lot (or almost all) of your congregation (not for visual aspects but for content).

 

This process should make your church ask:

  • who you are,
  • what you believe,
  • how someone joins in,
  • who you are trying to attract,
  • what your mission is all about,
  • why someone should come, and
  • why they should stay.

Think of what symbols and images represent your congregation – what is the reality vs. the desire (i.e. if we want to be diverse but are not yet, don’t have every image be diverse crowds – plainly say that you are moving towards diversity).

 


Who is going to update the website?

If you don’t have someone regular (like every week) to update the site, then don’t put time specific info there. It’s ok to have generic information. This is called a “brochure site” and while it’s not the most current type of site, it is better than having a site that is outdated.

When using online communication during transitions, it is important to remember that most of these platforms are accessible to the general public. For example, the church website is likely to be viewed by a visitor or non-member. Be selective about what is shared with the larger population. Consider providing a “members only” area, which requires a log-in.

 


Best Practices

  • Link to organizations you trust and support.
    • “People know you by your friends.”
    • And it will help with your search engine results: Google wants there to be links in and links out.
  • Upload sermons – use a podcast channel, post as a manuscript, save as a video, or have a live stream.
  • Link to other social media platforms that you have: blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.
  • Essentials to have on the home page, especially above the scroll: an obvious new/guest/visitor section, directions to the church, Sunday schedule, address, phone number, and links to staff & ways to contact each (probably as a menu item).
  • Consider online giving option – not only does it help you connect with an audience who is used to online gifts, but you will be prepared to receive gifts in case of crisis or disaster. A few companies I’ve heard good things about Paypal, E-Giving, and Vanco.
  • Be sure your site has mobile optimization. Your web developer should be able to make sure your coding is up-to-date to best be used on a mobile device. Or you can use a third party site like Duda Mobile for free (with ads) or low cost.
  • Don’t be tethered to something you don’t own. A Facebook page is not enough. You don’t own that. They can, at any time, delete, ban, crash, or lose your info.
  • A schedule of when to evaluate your website:
    • Yearly – check the whole site – every single page, but this should not be ONE person’s job. In fact, it’s best to “cross-pollinate” and have individuals check pages they would not normally visit (i.e. a senior adult evaluates the youth page) because they will more easily identify insider language.
    • Quarterly – check the top visited pages – if you don’t know what these are, have your web developer put Google Analytics coding on your site so you can track interactions.
    • Monthly – add new photos and change the seasonal look (you may want to make it match the weather seasons or match liturgical seasons).
    • Weekly – check the home page and update all news and events.
  • Use Google Analytics – how do you know if you are effective? It’s free and they provide a course for understanding how to read the stats.
    • Be sure you know which pages receive top hits.
    • View how people got to your site (referrals? direct hits? etc) and where they come from (locals?).

 


Design

Content may be king, but bad design can kill

  • Your visual goals are an attractive, easy to read, and easy to navigate site that is user-centered.
  • Give your site a usability test – ask some people who haven’t seen your site before to let you watch them while they interact with the site. Encourage them to talk aloud as they navigate specific tasks you ask them to perform (i.e. find our phone number, learn who is the children’s minister, read our newsletter, etc).
  • You need to think like a visitor and user when you organize the content on your site, which is also good advice for thinking like a visitor on your physical campus.
  • Helpful link on usability: www.usability.gov
  • When you are designing a new site, working with your web developer, think of these areas when evaluating what you want:
    • Navigation
    • Color/contrast
    • Typography (fonts)
    • Inclusion of images
    • Function
    • Interaction
  • Compare your site to other sites – look at other church sites from your community, look at other businesses – what are they doing well? What do they share?
  • When you see or interact with a  “bad websites,” name what is bad – if you can’t name what is bad design, you won’t know when you repeat it.
  • A website redesign should be a budget item for every 2-3 years. This doesn’t mean you have to completely start from scratch – but approach your web developer every two years and ask them to give you a new, fresh look. One reason is that the look of websites are changing about every 2-3 years, so this will keep your site looking fresh. Another reason is that a feature or plug-in that may have been too expensive for you to use a few years ago, may now be available for free or cheap.
    • If you know finding budget money is a problem, see if particular donors (especially those who are “first adapters” – people who have the newest gadget, know the latest social network and find the current news on interactive media – who understand the importance of your church having a new, fresh website.



It is not an option for you to have a website or to have a good one.

Put it in your budget now, and start this process today.

A few resources for websites:

Lists of top websites:

 

A few web developers with whom I have worked & would recommend:

 

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