The Importance of Having a Good Website
Early in the life of South Hills we realized the need to have a good website, and as our church has grown, so has our website adapted to meet our needs. Our website is a priority to us at both South Hills and Celera Group, as a website will often be someones first impression of your organization. If you have a poor web presence (or none at all) it could be a huge detriment to your church. The following is an excerpt from an article found at internetevangelismday.com I encourage you to visit their website, as you will find much more detailed information there.
Making church sites into evangelistic tools
1.Most church websites are designed entirely for their members, or unwittingly exclude non-Christians because of their choice of language and content.
2.A good church site must communicate with three very different target groups:
3.This ‘three-way stretch’ is a challenge, but can be achieved.
4.Take time to consider the needs and viewpoints of non-Christians.
5.Avoid all ‘churchy’ jargon and ‘Christianese’ language throughout the site, especially on the homepage.
6.Non-Christians may have negative images of Christians: boring, killjoys, judgmental, etc.
7.Christian outreach often fails because Christians do ‘megaphone proclamation’ from behind the protecting walls of their ‘ghetto’.
8.A primary task of the website is to convince non-Christians of these four things:
9.Do not think of your church site in isolation, merely as a stand-alone online brochure.
10.Church is people: the home page should have at least one photo of a church member. This is absolutely foundational to good communication, yet infrequently done.
11.Internal pages on the site can include photos of both outside and inside of the church building.
12.Include some ‘meet our members’ pages.
13.All links, page titles, and sub-headings should sound enticing.
14.If testimonies are used, they should be completely free of religious jargon, exaggeration and sentimentality.
15.Consider a ‘New to this site?’ visitors link on your homepage. This enables you to offer a particular welcome to an outsider.
16.Games and fun stuff are attractive and make a site sticky.
17.Consider adding some ‘bridging’ pages to the site.
18.Involve your church members in praying and supporting the web design team, and ‘owning’ the site.
19.Demonstrate a specific welcome for people with disability.
20.Summing up: the overall impression of the site must of a gentle, loving, enticing welcome. But…
21.Sadly, it is this issue of welcome and assimilation that frequently breaks down.
22.The context of your country, area and culture may lead you to apply these principles in different ways.
23.Church websites are not the only form of web evangelism.
24.Your church site will be the first point of contact for many people in your community. First impressions count.
25.Do not place too much information on your homepage.
26.And all important information should be ‘above the fold’.
27.Avoid ‘churchy’ graphics – open Bibles, stained glass windows, doves, candles. And appeals for money.
28.Use at least one graphic of a person’s face on the homepage.
29.A 3-column layout is often the most suitable for a church site.
30.Never use an introductory ‘splash page’.
31.Every page should display the same overall appearance, with the same navigation options in the same place.
32.All links, menu options and buttons should be clearly identified as ‘active’ – they should change color when hovered.
34.Don’t use frames for site design.
35.Learn how to use ‘include’ files – a great time-saver.
36.Also learn how to use CSS.
37.Use colors correctly: understand how to choose a color scheme, how colors relate to each other, and what mood they communicate.
38.Don’t use patterned graphic backgrounds behind body text.
39.Consider a ‘liquid’ page design: the content should flow naturally and fit together, at any screen resolution (i.e. size of the monitor screen measured in pixels) or reasonable font resize by a user.
40.And don’t put ‘best viewed at resolution’ or ‘best viewed in browser Y’ on your website.
41.Don’t include ‘mailto’ email addresses in plain coding on the site.
42.Your site need not be large or complex.
43.Don’t leave out-of-date content online.
44.Use several people to proof-read for typos and poor grammar.
45.Make your pages printer-friendly.
46.Take time to assess your target audience, their interests, needs and circumstances.
47.Not least, pray – both for planning and implementation.
Your church webmaster/team
48.A church webmaster or team needs a clear job description.
49.What if there is no-one technical in your church, to take on the webmaster role? You can use a pre-designed template system. These also answer the problem of what to do if the only technical person in the church moves on, leaving a website that no-one really knows how to update. Follow ‘Extra’ for a listing of providers and how to assess the features they offer.
50.A larger church site can benefit from ‘CMS’ – Content Manegment which enables multiple users to keep the site updated.
51.Learn from others. Help is only a mouse-click away.
52.For normal body text, use black font on a white or near-white background.
53.Do not used fixed font size in your coding.
54.Therefore make all font sizes relative, so that users can resize text if they wish.
55.Choice of fonts is important. The Verdana font is designed for computer monitors, and is widely perceived as the most readable for body text.
56.Understand how to make your site user-friendly to color-blind and visually-impaired visitors.
57.Test your site from a technical viewpoint in different browsers, and at different screen resolutions.
58.Also test your site with real first-time users. Remember, you know your site backwards. They do not.
59.Find non-Christians to critique your site. Yes, non-Christians! They are your primary target audience.
Navigation and usability
60.Good navigation allows a first-time non-technical visitor to move round your site easily.
61.Good navigation gives visitors constant clues to fulfill the vital requirements: ‘Where am I, where have I been, and where can I go’. Many websites, of all types, fail to be effective because they lack a good intuitive navigation system.
62.Do not offer too many links in your navigation menu.
63.You can use ‘paper prototyping’ to plan different ways of structuring links within the site.
64.Make sure your pages download quickly.
Being found – online and physically
65.The title tages in the head of your homepage, which should contain the full name of the church, plus town, state and country.
66.Your church name, street, town, area/state, country and phone number should also appear in unabbreviated form in a small font in the footer of your homepage (or preferably every page).
67.Submit your church site to main search engines and secular directories.
68.Make every page of your site a logical entry point to your site.
69.Framed Pages present problems to being listed in search engines.
70.Ensure the church URL is easy to remember. Take every opportunity to give it a high profile.
71.Make full use of press releases to local newspapers and radio stations. These should always include your URL. Larger churches can consider publishing regular news using an ‘RSS’ feed.
72.Include clear directions for finding the church. Give details of parking, public transport links, and a map.
Responding to emails
73.Ensure that every day, someone reads incoming emails to the church.
74.Some people may be emailing for help on serious life issues.
75.It need not necessarily be the pastor or pastor’s secretary that does this, especially out of hours.
One last thought… A good website does not have to cost a fortune. A good website can be very simple,and there are great website templates out there, and designers who will give a church a break. Remember, since it is the web, you don’t have to limit yourself to designers in your area.
Until next time,
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Visitors are increasingly checking out churches online before walking into a service.”
– Tom Harper of ChurchCentral.com
Posted on December 13, 2009, in church growth, technology and tagged be resourceful, church attendence, church growth, creative thinking, new thinking, technology, website. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.