People shop for a church like they shop for a car. They check out their choices online before they step foot on the property. So the website often leaves the first impression on those searching for the Good News of Jesus Christ.
People who already attend a church will also use the ministry’s website regularly to find valuable information … if it is designed well.
The purpose of a church website
A church needs a website to tell the world:
- Basic church information
- Detailed descriptions of programs
- Announcement and events
But if these efforts are executed poorly, they will frustrate users. If the information is incomplete or hard to find, people may assume the church is disorganized or out of touch.
There are more effective ways to display this information and engage users.
Best practices for church web design
Basic church info
The most common thing people want to find on a church website is basic information, including service times, the address, and the phone number. So display this information prominently on the homepage. Don’t make people click and hunt around for critical details.
Some websites make it even easier for people to contact the church with a contact form or a live-chat box.
Descriptions of programs
People shopping for a church or those already attending may visit the website to get a feel for church programs such as Sunday school, youth group, or the seniors club. They want to see if the programs fit their needs.
A church must fully explain each program’s purpose, the format of the meetings, the day and time of regular meetings, who is invited, and, most importantly, why someone should attend.
Some churches have never taken the time to verbalize the qualities of their programs. So the web design process is a great time to clarify and refocus the value of each program.
Announcement and events
Every church wants more people to attend the Christmas pageant, Easter egg hunt, or rummage sale. But many faith-based organizations are solely focused on paper flyers or the Sunday bulletin. Some churches are using Facebook for events and announcements, but that only reaches Facebook users. There is a better way.
Break up the bulletin. Many churches publish a multi-page document each week full of announcements called a bulletin. They hand them out to those who attend the Sunday service and post a PDF version online reference.
But a PDF is not a good way of distributing information for four reasons:
- It must be downloaded.
- The user has to open it in Adobe Acrobat.
- Once it’s downloaded onto someone’s device, it can’t be updated. So if there is an error in the documents and you upload a new version, you have no way of replacing the drafts that people already downloaded.
- A PDF is not mobile friendly and is difficult to read on a smartphone.
Most websites come with a blog or news feature. Take each announcement or event in the bulletin and write a short news post for each one. These posts will then be featured on your website. Most designs will offer the first sentence or two, followed by a “read more” link.
An online news post also gives the church the chance to say more about the announcement or event. A paper bulletin has a limited amount of space, but a website has unlimited amounts of space for text, photos, videos, and other interactive content like signup forms.
For extra exposure, share each news post individually on social media. You can even schedule the posts so that one is released each day throughout the week.
You can still post a link to the PDF bulletin, for those who want to print it, but the focus should be on news posts that are easier to access and sharable.
See an example of this technique on MarshfieldCatholic.org. Henderson Media LLC launched this church website design and trained the staff on how to manage the news posts.
This website design includes:
- Purchase of the domain address MarshfieldCatholic.org.
- Web hosting, including an SSL security certificate.
- A new mobile-friendly website design with a content-management system allowing the staff to handle most content changes and additions.
- Content writing and editing on site pages.
- Corporate Photography of the property and pastor.
- Website management training.
For help with your church or nonprofit website design, contact Henderson Media LLC.
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