Think of your website as your shop window: All good shops update their window displays at regular intervals to keep things fresh and inviting. The same needs to be done for your website, as a tired out of date website can turn potential new church members away – especially if they can’t find the information they are looking for, or even simple contact details.
A website can easily find itself out of date within a year or two. When was the last time you completely redesigned your website? Or even just refreshed the content? It’s important that you keep the content and the website up to date.
For a redesign, start completely from scratch. It’s easier to make something work well from the beginning than it is to try and plaster over cracks and force a site to work for you.
Before you even start redesigning, there are a few things you need to think about:
First things first: Do your research
Find out which content is helpful and which content isn’t. It’s hard to make those judgements yourself as you’re generally not the one using it. Here are some ideas to find out what other people think about it.
- Add an online survey to your website for visitors to fill in (Though it’s not guaranteed that they will, especially if it takes a lot of time to fill in)
- Hand out a survey in church, ask people to fill it in and leave it at the back of church
- Hold focus groups, maybe straight after the service (bribe church members with food to attend!) Get discussion going about the site and make notes.
Some of the things you need to ask:
- What do you like about the site?
- What don’t you like about it?
- What’s missing?
- What isn’t being used to its full potential?
- What should there be less/more of?
- Is the site easy to navigate? Can things be found easily?
All the information gathered will guide you about the best way to move forward.
Second: Find your site builder
There are two options for building the site:
1. Find someone in your church with web design skills
2. pay a company to build it for you.
If you choose the church member option, ensure their skills are advanced enough to build the site you want, not the one they can cobble together. Secondly, remember that if the church member is responsible for looking after the site, make sure you also have access (in case they leave the church or suddenly can’t look after it anymore) It can also be awkward if you want to be critical of the site, aren’t happy with what they have created or you need to ask them to step down from the project (you still have to see them every week!)
The downside to paying a web company will always be the cost, but I personally think the positives outweigh the negatives. Some of the best church websites have been professionally designed. When you are paying for the design, you should get a company with plenty of experience and high quality skills, who can offer support and advice to make it the best website it can be. Employing a company and having a contract is also a safer way to work.
A web design company can also offer you a CMS (Content management system) This is where multiple administrators can edit the site from an easy online dashboard. It is a beneficial addition as you don’t have to rely on one person to edit the content and this can make updating the site as easy as possible.
If employing a company to help you with your site make sure you know exactly what your budget and time-scale is as this will help shape the kind of website you can have.
Finally: Things to Remember
- Know your budget and time-scale, this will help shape the kind of website you can have and help the web company work out what they can offer you.
- Get at least three quotes, don’t forget that the cheapest is not necessarily the best option
- A website with little control over how it looks will date quicker than a website with a variety of options and styles
- When you finally have your new website, don’t put editing access in one person’s hands – ensure at least one or two other people can log in to edit.
- Regularly check the content of the pages for inaccuracies and other unhelpful information – update the site as often as you can.
- There will be at least two groups of people using your site: the congregation and those looking to visit your church for the first time. Ensure each group has the content they need but prioritise newcomers (The homepage should be directed at them)
Anything I’ve missed or have any questions? Let me know in the comments.