Ten Tips for Building Your Church Website
You’ve got the budget approved. All of the ministry leaders have sent their notes. You’re sitting down to start building a new website for your church annnnd… now what? Here are our 10 tips to help you build your church website out in a way that works for both your congregation and for encouraging potential visitors to stop by.
We’re breaking this down into three key areas:
- Structure/Navigation: you have a few seconds to keep a visitor on your site. Knowing what they expect can guide decisions along the way.
- Content: What are people looking for? How does that differ from a regular attendee to a visitor?
- Ongoing upkeep & maintenance plan: A website isn’t a rotisserie chicken. Set-it-and-forget-it just isn’t a good idea. Having a plan and resources in place will help keep your site content fresh and working the way people expect it to.
You have just a few seconds to keep a new website visitor from clicking away. They expect the page to load quickly and to find what they are looking for without having to poke around too much. With half of website visits coming in from smartphones, you’ll need to have that experience in check too.
1. Think about mobile.
Most website platforms have a responsive design, meaning the site automatically resizes and adjusts to fit any screen. It still helps to look at the screen at a mobile size and make adjustments. This intentional step from the desktop view you’re building in, to what the mobile user experience is like, will pay off big time. Why?
With half of all website traffic coming through on those little hand-held computers we call smartphones, knowing how each page will look when resized to fit those various smaller screen sizes will pay off. Have you been to a site on your phone that doesn’t resize? Having to pinch and zoom and feeling the aaarrrggghhh well up inside while you try to find what you’re looking for doesn’t make you feel good about the site you are looking at or those who put it out. Think about those looking at your site on smartphones. No one likes this face!
2. Have a secure site.
Given the threat of hackers, that HTTPS before your URL makes both users and Google happy. Google has been pushing sites to have SSL Certificates for a few years now, upping the anty as time goes on. HTTPS sites have a “Secure Socket Layer” that protects users from hackers while browsing. Google also rewards secure sites with higher search visibility.
What kind of information you ask for on your site will determine the level of security. If you are starting from scratch (or starting over), many platforms include this feature. How much security do you need? If you just post information, no worries! Getting basic Domain Validation is free and has a quick turnaround. If you have a section for email sign-up or collect credit card information outside of your online giving partner, you need to get Organization Validation, the next level up. That certificate typically comes back within a day. Most online giving partners should have security – be sure to talk with them if you have any questions about site security.
3. Make it easy to find these three key areas.
If your church has online giving, make sure folks can easily find out. Now we realize this can be a touchy subject. We aren’t saying it should have flashing arrows pointing to it or a pop-up on every page asking for tithes and offerings. However, it should be easy to find and we recommend not having it buried within the menus.
Having easy to find and up to date event details is so helpful. Regular attenders and visitors alike come to check out the where, when, and what time. Being able to answer these questions provides a lot of value to your site visitors.
Visitors don’t know your church – but they want to. Make sure they can find all of the information they might need and all in one place. You can have links back to other sections of the site as needed.
4. Build social links into the header and/or footer.
Having easy access points to your Facebook, Instagram and other social pages make it easy for everyone to see the social side of your church. Placing them in these spots gives consistency on every page and one less thing for you to have to remember to include as you build out your site.
People come to your site looking for SOMETHING. Depending on who they are and their current relationship with you, that can vary. For the most part, people expect to be able to find accurate, up-to-date information quickly and to answer their questions.
5. Invest in high-quality photos (and if you can, video).
Pictures still tell a thousand words, and the right photos can showcase your church community and invite site visitors to stay longer to read more. Cameras have improved greatly on phones over the years and still help with social media posting. When it comes to your site, however, high-quality, high-resolution photos taken by a skilled photographer are worth the investment. They can take into account layout, lighting, placement, and all of the other things that the typical person might not consider.
If you have the budget, we also recommend developing a high-quality welcome video. These videos serve as an introduction to your church to visitors. You can show off your guest parking, where to come in, and what they can expect when they get inside.
6. Give potential church visitors the information they are looking for.
In today’s world, you can almost guarantee they will check out your website first (followed by your social media, but that’s another discussion). Visitors come to get a feel for what your church is like and if the community might be a good fit. What time is service? Is there child care, and what peace of mind can you give those parents? What kind of music is at worship and what are your church’s beliefs? What should they do the day they visit? Let them know about special parking, entrances, and if you have a welcome area for visitors. The larger the church, the more care and preparation you need to take to ensure they feel comfortable showing up and come back again.
Keep visitors in mind throughout the rest of your site’s pages. Do they see people in the photos that look like folks they could be friends with? Also, remember to show what it is that your church does best. If you have an active international missions team, highlight it! If you have a group that works closely with a local shelter, make sure that’s visible.
7. Be conversational. Be real. Avoid jargon.
In any organization, terms exist that mean something only to “insiders.” If your church wants to be more welcoming to newcomers, pay attention to the language you use. For example, if you say on your site “be sure to pick up your welcome packet in the Narthex” will they be looking for some type of Medieval dragon? Or the lobby as they come in from the parking lot? Whether your church has a Narthex or a lobby, you can see what we mean!
Plan for ongoing upkeep + maintenance
Websites typically need a refresh or rebuild every few years. That doesn’t mean you have a site built and then forget about it! Keeping content updated and everything working will help both strengthen the relationship you have both with your current congregation and with potential visitors.
8. Have more than one person who knows how to make updates.
Whether it’s a pastor, an admin, or a volunteer, you’ll want a point person to handle the regular event updates. However, eventually, they will get sick, take a vacation, or leave. Having at least one other person that can handle those changes gives peace of mind.
9. Have help on call for the tricky stuff.
After your main build, you may find that something new needs to be added – and it’s a bit more complicated than what you can handle, or have the time to deal with. The great thing with websites is one can log into them from anywhere. While it’s great to have someone local, so long as you can find someone that you trust and that knows the platform, you can save their information for those times when you need the extra help.
10. Make periodic site maintenance and upkeep a part of your workflow and budget.
We take our car in for oil changes, tune-ups, and annual inspections. We check our tires for low air pressure. Keeping tabs on website performance helps to ensure that the site runs smoothly and does what we need it too. Most of the time a site just needs a minor tweak. Every now and then something breaks and needs more attention. But it’s better to check in periodically to keep things humming along rather than find out right before an important event that your Visitors page has one of those nasty 404 messages.
In conclusion, keeping these things in mind can help your site serve as a powerful digital hub for communicating with both your flock and those you want to reach.
If you aren’t sure how to implement some of these points, or just don’t have the time, let’s chat!
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Looking for more helpful website tips and insights? Stick around and check out these other blog posts.