Your website is like your shop window – for most it will be the first thing people will see about your church so you need to make it count. Here are some tips which will encourage people to spend more time on your website and hopefully transform those website visitors into church visitors.
1. Focus on the people not the building.
It’s tempting to highlight your building’s historic features, but it sends the message that your building is the most important part of your church. Instead, focus on the things people may be coming to your website for. Generally this will be weddings, christenings and funerals, as well as service times and community group information.
Tip: Create a building information pack for people which they can request by email or pick up when they visit the church.
2. Re-evaluate your structure
How many pages do people have to click through to find the most important information? Is the information structure of the website logical? What may be logical to you, may not be logical to someone else, so get people to test out the structure to see how easy it is to find everything.
Tip: Write out your website structure on a piece of paper to better visualise it. Alternatively, use post-it notes which you can rearrange easily.
3. Cut down on text
Don’t make your site visitors wade through an essay to find the information they are looking for. Keep things brief and easy to understand. You can then use large photos alongside the reduced text to make it more appealing to the eye and less intimidating. Remember that some of your visitors may not be good readers or struggle with lots of text.
Tip: Each topic shouldn’t needed need more than one page. Try and keep to no more than 2-4 short paragraphs per page and 1-3 large images per page.
4. Be as helpful as possible
Remember the people visiting your website who may not have much experience of church. To help them, use as little jargon as possible, explain what happens at each of your services and describe the facilities available (including toilets, parking and disabled access) Why not include an FAQ? Here’s one from Holy Trinity Claygate which is a good example to copy.
Tip: Ask a non-church member to read through the content. They should be able to pick out any complicated jargon.
5. Be Mobile
The amount of people accessing websites from tablets and smart phones is increasing, so when building a new website, it’s important to make it mobile friendly. A mobile friendly site adjusts to the size of the screen it’s being accessed from. For an example of this, look at the website for Holy Trinity Hastings (decrease the window size and watch as the website continuously fits the screen.)
Tip: Have a look at your own website from a mobile phone to see how confusing and unhelpful it can be. Going through what the user goes through will help you understand their way of thinking.
6. Be Social
Don’t forget to include links to your social media accounts or go a step further and embed the accounts into your website. Here are some guides to embedding Facebook and Twitter. By doing this, you’re making your social media accounts easier to find and giving visitors the opportunity to go ‘follow’ or ‘like’ your accounts. This may be their first step in joining your church.
Tip: Make sure your social media channels also link back to your website for the people that find you there first.
7 Be Simple
Avoid flashing animations, music that autoplays when you access the site or anything that makes the website look busy. By including these things, you are confusing your visitor and making it hard to find the thing they are looking for. The more confused they are, the more likely they are to leave your site. Instead, keep things incredibly simple – don’t be afraid of blank space.
Tip: Read this blog on the importance of blank space and then see what content on your own website you could remove.
8. Be Consistent.
Keep the same styles, colours and fonts on every page. This not only looks professional but will be less confusing and will help visitors find what they are looking for. The less time it takes to learn how the site is laid out the easier it will be for the visitor.
Tip: Create some design guidelines, a simple guide to what fonts and colours to use, and if needed, how content should be laid out. This will be useful for anyone helping with the website and with your social media channels.
9. Know who your audience is
If your website only caters for your congregation, you’re potentially losing out on new church members as it can feel unwelcoming. Avoid content such as rotas or referring to people by their first name with no context. You know that Margaret does the flower arranging, but new people don’t. If you have to mention someone, link back to the who’s who page so people can put a face to a name.
Tip: Create a homepage specifically designed for new visitors. This is your pitch: can you explain why they should visit your church in 200 words or less?