Over the past few weeks I’ve visited well over 1,000 individual, local church websites.
Let me tell you: There’s a lot of truly crappy church websites out there.
Next to word of mouth recommendations from the people in your church, your church website is the most important connection tool you have.
For example, let’s say you are having coffee with a co-worker who is telling you about some frustrations in her marriage. Naturally, you relate your marriage to your faith and talk about having a common faith draws you together as a couple. You casually say, “This helps us, maybe it’d be worth a shot? Do you want to come to church with us once to try it out?” Your co-worker thinks that’s a good idea and agrees to meet you there before the service.
What happens next? Your co-worker needs to know where the church is, what time it meets, and get an idea of what to expect.
Can your church website deliver that? Sadly. Most can’t. Most church websites suck! They are either hopelessly outdated or have 700 things that aren’t relevant to the central reason most people come to your church website— To check you out.
5 Ways to Improve Every Church Website
- Add the church name, address, phone number, and a link to directions in the footer of every page. Think like a visitor. If I’m going to come to church I need to know how to get there. Bonus: Doing this will get your church address to show up in search results, meaning people won’t even have to visit your church website to find you. Double bonus: Sign-up for Places for Business at Google and even more accurate information will show up in searches about your church.
- Focus your homepage on visitors. Most churches have far too much information on their homepage. I’ve built enough church websites to know that most traffic is never going to leave your homepage… 90% of the traffic will visit that one page then leave. So communicate clearly when you meet, where you meet, and something about the vibe of your church there. Think about it emotively, not with words. When someone visits your site, what do you want them to feel about you?
- Unless your church looks like this, have pictures of people on your site and not your building. A picture of the church is the default “we don’t know what the heck to do” image. But 4-5 beautiful pictures of people in your church doing church-y stuff will go a long way. When you do this: Think like a marketer. (Because you are marketing!) Feature images of the people you’d like to see in your congregation. Read into that what you’d like. Don’t have great photography? Hire a local photographer. It’ll be worth the $500.
- Make it easy to contact you. The 3 most popular pages on most non-profit organizations websites are: Home, About Us, and Staff. Think about it like this… People need to know “Who are we, what are we about, how do I connect with you?” Make it as easy as possible to contact your staff. Also, a pet peeve is that the youth worker is almost always listed last on the staff page. Seriously? Just do it alphabetically. The staff page should have the name, title, and contact info. (Phone, email. Twitter and Facebook are great if you want a personal touch.)
- Make it mobile-friendly. Go to your church website on your phone or tablet right now. Do you have to pinch? If you do, you lose. I can safely say that 50% of the traffic coming to your church site is coming from a smart phone and tablet. Since 2011, every web projects I’ve managed has had a mobile-first mentality. We design for tablets and phones as the primary users because we know that when you have that conversation at lunch… your friend is going to the car and will check you out there. (Or they pile the kids in the car and think, “Shoot… where is that church at?“
A word about church-based content management systems. As I’m out looking at church sites I see tons that were developed by church-based CMS companies. (Ezekiel and Clover seem to be the most dominant.) I’ve met and know some of the people who run these companies and they are lovely people. But the church market is just not big enough and those things are antiquated. They simply can’t keep up. That’s why I only build with WordPress. 19% of the internet is run by WordPress right now. Seriously, if you do-it yourself, you could run a church website for $100 per year.
Will you help us? Of course. About 1/3 of my business is web development. In fact, I have a team of fantastic developers who all have a ministry background. Contact me and we can talk. Even if it’s just a one-hour Skype call to look at your site and recommend some fixes, we can do that. (Just note I’m not offering for me or my team to do anything for free. We’re ministry-minded people… with mortgages.)