What if your pastor's sermon had no major points, no reference to scripture, and no relevance to your daily lives? What if they wore a distracting outfit, talked too quietly, and stuttered? I doubt that pastor's preaching career would last very long. So why would it be OK for your website to do the same thing? Create good looking, recently updated, relevant websites and you will inspire confidence in your visitors.
Your expectations have risen since you first started using the Internet. What a website looks like gives you an immediate impression of the entity it represents. It can inspire confidence in prospective members, and pride in existing ones. Too often I hear of church members say their church has a website, but "well, it’s not that good". Those depressing comments are one of the major reasons I started this blog; so let us consider some ways to inspire confidence in your users. Please note that these are huge topics, each warranting a series of articles. However, this is a primer to get your wheels turning on what directions your church web team can move toward.
The days of blinking and/or scrolling text, animated GIF images, and "under construction" signs should be well behind your church's website. Clean layouts using a nice grid structure and a well thought-out color palette can do so much for a website. You do not need a degree in design to make some improvements. In many cases getting consistency across all of your web pages will be a huge step in making your site look cleaner and more professional.
Good looking sites are not always easy to use. The navigation items must make sense to everyone. Do not make it a mystery, since every click is an investment of your users time. Guide them to the answers they are seeking without any extra steps of content in the way. Honestly, if they want to donate money to your church, they will find it.
So what are your users looking for on your site? Content! Whatever the format, text, audio, video, or images; they are seeking content. Not only are the looking for content, but content that is not outdated. Is an existing member looking for the latest sermon? Does a prospective believer want to know more about your tenants of faith? Is a neighbor interested in your next fundraiser dinner? Everyone who comes to your site is looking for the latest information, so spend the time to create good content.
So they liked how your site looked, was able to find everything, and liked what you had to say. So now what? I sense a contact form in the near future. So be sure they are free from clutter and unnecessary fields. Only ask for information that you need, not just want. If you ask for too much, your users may worry what you are going to do with their information, or how often you will contact them.
Examine your site to see how you are inspiring confidence in your users. Ask members, friends, and family if they would attend your church based solely from the website. If the answer is anything other than an emphatic "yes", then you have some praying and some serious work ahead of you.
Photo courtesy of Scott Swigart