I know nothing about cars, so whenever I take mine in for service and they offer to do a “complimentary 5-point inspection,” I’m grateful. (That is, until I find out that they’re usually just trying to up-sell me on extra maintenance.) If you’re feeling lost with the mechanics of your church’s website, I would like to humbly offer you this quick 5-point inspection to help you decide if your site is working well, needs a tune-up, or is ready to be totaled. And best of all – I promise I’m not selling anything!
Check #1: Is it past its prime?
When was the last time you redesigned your site? If it was longer than 5 years ago, it’s definitely time for an overhaul. In fact, a conservative estimate is that the shelf life of a website is 3-5 years. Some people say it’s actually more like 2.
But don’t panic – it’s 2019, and thankfully it’s neither expensive nor difficult* to have a gorgeous modern site. Check out popular options like Squarespace or Wix, or if you’re feeling less adventurous, there are many platforms that cater specifically to churches. Just Google “church websites” and you’ll find a bunch!
*”Difficult” here refers to the design only – your content is another story, but we’ll get to that!
Check #2: Is it easy to find the important stuff?
We spend a lot of time making our sites look amazing – so much time, in fact, that we sometimes forget the most obvious things. Pull up your website right now and pretend you don’t know anything about your church. Now answer the following questions:
- Where is this church located?
- What time are the services?
- What do they offer for kids?
- What do they believe?
If you had to click more than two times to get to any of the answers, you’ve probably lost your potential visitor. Moving this basic info to your home page (or at the most, one click into a very obvious and well-labeled menu) will draw visitors into your site, rather than frustrating them away from it.
Check #3: Is your domain name memorable?
Several years ago, we realized that ours was not. While faithefc.com was great when our church was relatively small, established, and well-known as an Evangelical Free Church, it suddenly meant nothing to people in our community who knew us only as Faith Church. We found ourselves having to spell out our website over the phone like this: “E as in Evangelical. F as in Free. C as in Church.” Or, worse: “E as in Elephant. F as in Frank. C as in cookie.”
A good domain name is simple, easy to communicate, and memorable.
A bad domain name is complicated, confusing, and forgettable.
It took us a lot of creativity and a good bit of angst to come up with something that we liked. (As you can imagine, there are a lot of Faith Churches out there, so all the good stuff was already taken.) We finally landed on faithchurchlv.com. The LV is for Lehigh Valley, where we are located, and is common in domain names for many local businesses and organizations. Maybe not perfect, but at least now we can say “LV as in Lehigh Valley” and people get it immediately.
Check #4: Does it look good on a phone?
This is super important! Most churches design websites on computers. But most people look at websites on phones. Please, please, please make sure your design looks good and functions well on phones! It would be a tragedy if all the hard work you put into making your site look amazing was wasted because it looks wonky to 90% of the people accessing it.
Check #5: Does it communicate your vision?
The best church websites are simple, clean, and focused. They draw you in, paint a picture of what God is doing there and what you could experience if you were part of their community, then give you solid, easy to digest next steps about how to get involved.
So take an honest look at yours. What picture does it paint? Are you seeing a cohesive, engaging, exciting story? Or is it simply a collection of information about ministries and initiatives, events and processes competing for your attention? Does it point you toward concrete, attainable next steps? (Join us! Plan your visit. Watch a service online.) Or does it yank you back and forth across competing messages? (Come to our Easter egg hunt. Donate to our hurricane relief drive. Sign up for a Bible study.)
Every time we redesign our website, we make significant cuts to the content. This might seem counterintuitive, but in an age of information overload and critically short attention spans, our web strategy has become laser-focused on drawing people into a worship service – and hopefully eventually, a relationship with Christ. Once they’re here in person we can begin to introduce them to next steps over time.
How did your website fare? If you identified some areas for improvement, great! (And also, I feel your pain because we are in the midst of a complete site redesign.) If you checked out ok this time, awesome! Start filing away some ideas for your next redesign.
Let’s all help each other out! Post a link to your church’s site in the comments and then give somebody else’s some honest and constructive feedback. We’re all in this together, and sometimes it helps to have fresh eyes give you an opinion that’s not biased by what they already know (and love) about your church.
Want more church communication tips?
Check our our interview with Emily on Episode 6 of the EDA Move Podcast! We chat more about church websites, an unexpectedly successful platform for a mid-week teaching, a three-tiered communication strategy that keeps the main thing the main thing and more.
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