In today's fast-paced culture of modern design, slick marketing, and ever changing technology preferences, the church website is often seen as the red-headed stepchild of the Internet. And usually for good reason. Let's face it: Most of them are cheesy, confusing, poorly put together, and simply can't keep up with their chic and stylish counterparts. We live in a Digital Age where even many small businesses and mom-and-pop restaurants hire professional web designers. This has sadly led to a lot of church sites being laughed off before they have a chance to make a connection or impression. Bottom line: A lot of church websites aren't taken seriously.
But, it doesn't have to be this way. Just what exactly is it that causes so many church websites to be unsuccessful? It could be ignorance about good web style and development. It could be a lack of financial resources to pay, hire, or outsource a skilled designer. Perhaps the lead pastor doesn't really see it as a necessity. Maybe the board or elders are standing in the way of approving the needed finances to enhance the current site.
Whatever the situation, here are a few dead giveaways that you might have an awful church website:
#1. It's unfriendly.
Your site has the potential to be much more than just a giant billboard on the high-speed freeway of the Internet. If a visitor is whizzing by at 120 miles per hour, will they even notice your site long enough to slow down, pull over, and check it out? For this to happen, it needs to be engaging and personable. The only way to ensure this is by making your site friendly. — Friendly in tone, friendly in language, friendly in photos, and friendly in overall design and appearance. Here's a good starting tip: Make sure your staff members actually smile in their photos.
#2. It’s confusing.
Seriously, folks. If the average seeker can’t even navigate around your site without getting lost, there’s a problem. They should be able to find the staff page, the service times and location, the beliefs page, the “new here” page, the sermon audio/video/podcast, the calendar, and the ministries page all without ever missing a beat. This means your menu bar should be easily accessible and visible both on the desktop view and mobile view of your site. The menu bar should also conform well to any template you might be utilizing.
#3. It doesn’t have a Google Maps Plug-In
Speaking of location, it never ceases to amaze me how many church websites I still see that don’t put a Google Map plug-in somewhere on their site. Google basically does half the work for you. It really couldn’t be any easier to copy the provided HTML coding and then embed/paste it into your site. Seekers will not only want to have quick access to this map for GPS features on their smartphone, but will also appreciate being able to see frequently updated exterior photos and Street Views of your building when they are prepared to make their first visit.
#4. It has obsolete and/or useless content.
Is the sermon audio three months behind? A year behind? Did you hire a new youth pastor and forget to update the staff page so parents are showing up looking for the dude who was there four years ago? Did your ladies small group stop meeting last month, but still has their own ministry page with photos and everything? Keep your site updated with current information. Otherwise, people will ask: What's the point of this website even being here in the first place?
#5. It implements cheesy typography, fonts, and design templates.
*Insert facepalm emoji here* Too many church websites have had fantastic photos, powerful messages, and great content all mutilated and marred by terrible font choices and design templates from the early nineties. Please don't do it. Just...don't.
#6. There's no mobile version.
I've mentioned this in previous posts before. The vast majority of the folks landing on your site will be viewing it from a smartphone or tablet. Your site should have a mobile view to accommodate these people. Not everyone church shops from their laptop or desktop computer. In fact, most people don't. They Google "churches near me" on their iPhone or Android and start searching. Make mobile view a reality for these people so that they can easily access and engage with your site.
#7. It has no clear objective.
What's the point of your website? Have you even paused to ask yourself this question? More importantly, what is the point of each page? Is one page designed to feature the history of your church? Perhaps another page is meant to attract people through your church's worship experience. Still, another page is meant to offer effective sermon content. Every page and subpage has a unique function. It's your job to ensure that those functions are carried out and that each goal is met.
A lot of church websites today are sort of the equivalent of large buckets of paint thrown at a blank wall. Whatever happens to come together just happens while the creator shrugs it off and says, "Well, it's the best that we can do." And nothing is ever touched or updated again. This sort of apathy is the problem in many churches regarding digital and social media, technology, and several other areas of revitalization. Don't erect a site for your church simply because you feel like it's the thing to do. Truthfully, you'd almost be better off without a site.
How Can I Help You?
Need help overhauling your church website? Stuck on how to design and develop better social media graphics or manage your social media pages? Want some help with effective church marketing and community relations? Book me for a coaching session or request me to speak at your church about these issues. Want to meet for coffee first? Visit my contact page and send me a direct message.