Creating Your Church Web Site Navigation

Aside from what should be on the home page, few things are harder than determining what the navigation structure should be on your church website. It is not only a technical decision, but a business decisions, and in some cases a political decision. Your primary navigation shapes how people use your site and ultimately how easily they can find information on it. By applying some basic information architecture principles you can come up with a structure that fits your individual church and utilizes common practices on the web.
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Where Is Your Church Going?

If your church does not set a clear business objective, you do not know where you are going, nor do you have no means to measure success. Business objectives can be both long and short term; from sending a group on a mission trip, hosting a conference, raising membership, or even recording a worship CD. Brainstorming with groups and committees can get a long list of items, leadership can prioritize, and your website can certainly help!

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Determining your ROI Part 2: Measuring Returns

In Part 1 of this series I asked you to take a look at what each person in your church brought to the table. I then asked that you compare that to what you spend on getting new members through the door. The greater the difference, the better your return on investment is. One piece I left out was how to measure that gap. Using an analytics tool, you can easily see how users are behaving on your website, and what sources (i.e. your ads) brought them there.
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Do Not Force Identities on Users

To this day I still do not understand why some companies force users to self-identify. When trying to buy a computer on a major name brand website, you must often declare if you are a home, student, and business customer. What if you are a part-time student who lives at home while running a small business? What do you choose? For church websites, do not ask if the users is an existing member, prospective member, or anything else. Present content that engages all of your target audiences and they will make their own choice.
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Determining Your ROI Part 1: Comparing Costs

In a previous article, I said that creating your own website is an investment in both time and money. Like any investment, you want to know what kind of return you are getting. This is often difficult to do for printed media and commercials. Unless someone explicitly tells you they saw your ad, or walks through the door with a flier in hand, you do not know if your money was well spent. However the web gives us many more insights, since every click can be tracked and every contact archived.

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Documenting Your Church’s History

As your church moves on through history, what records are you keeping? What will the next generation read about your church’s journey? In this digital age, keeping records is easier than ever. Much like any other culture, churches are proud of their history. Although many families move frequently, some do stay in the cities they grew up in. Plus many people may come back to the city they were raised to research their family history. It would be great for them to see that information through the lens of your church.

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Why Even Have A Web Site?

Many people consider owning a car a necessity in the modern world; especially if you live in the United States. You cannot commute to work, run errands, or go to church without one. Yet many people in large metropolitan areas do not own a car. They use public transportation to get to everything they need. Much like owning a car, having a website for you church may seem like a no-brainer decision. Yet for many organizations, free blogs and social media may give you everything you need.

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Not Everyone Can Design

When you ask people in the church who can fix a car, crochet, shingle a roof, or bake a gold medal pound cake… people will most likely not lie about their talents. If they cannot do it, they admit it without shame. However when it comes to the web, everyone has an opinion. That opinion often spills over into them deciding how the site should look.  Do not relegate your designers to the task of simply pushing pixels.  Let them do their job and they will continue to surprise you!

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Effective Site Imagery

The photos on your site do not need to say a thousand words.  They do need to speak to your users and align with your business goals. Try to put your written content into the proper context by displaying images that lend and enhance your message and connect with people’s emotions. Use the science of psychology and art of storytelling to show people why your church is so amazing.
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Write Content For Your Users, Not Yourself

Does your site welcome them in, or coldly show them some facts? You may want to talk about theology or the history of your church, but these often do not connect with your users. People come to your church website because they are looking for the solution to a problem. Your primary calls to action should be solutions to those problems.
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Lead Your Church And Your Web Site

Leadership driving the business goals and website needs to come from your pastor. If you are a pastor of a church, glad to have you reading this. If not, print this out, send them an E-mail, or do whatever you can to get this to your pastor. After all of the Sundays spent listening to their sermons, they can read my short one for a change!
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Yes, You Are Selling Something

Churches, get over yourselves… you are selling something.  Not in the same line as commerce sites, but you are selling something.  You are selling eternal life through our savior Jesus Christ.  Make no mistake that is your ware.  If you are comfortable with that idea, I think one can apply many common web marketing and sales techniques to a church website.
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