After debating your church's need for a website, you decide it is the next best step. So now what? Although I primarily write individual articles focused on connecting church goals to web technologies, I feel compelled to write a tutorial-themed article. In this first piece, I will take you through the planning stages of creating or revising your website.
Although these steps do not need to be accomplished in this order, this is what I consider to be the most efficient.
Examine your goals
Your pastoral team and pertinent committees should convene and examine the church’s primary goals. Of course I highly recommend that each of your goals should be rooted in scripture. Then document and prioritize these goals.
Connect your goals
Now you need to find the path from your goals to your church website. The communications lead should create a Web Strategy Document, which shows exactly how the website will support these goals. Include high-level solutions that are not specific to technology. Examples are allowing users to view embedded videos, make online donations, contact us for membership information, etc.
Scale to your needs
Now that you have an idea of what features you want on the site, it is time to prioritize them. This can be as simple as rank ordering them, to weighting goals with a combination of importance and expense. This will involve not only your church’s leadership, but web experts that can provide multiple solutions for your problems (i.e. hosting video files yourself, using a paid service, or a free service). Keep a list of all the features you wish to implement, so that if something does not make the first cut, it can be re-examined for a future update.
Design to meet your goals
If your web team is big enough, this is the first place where you can accomplish work in parallel:
- Examine this strategy document and work (with their team) to create an architecture for the content. This includes the site navigation structure, as well as the beginnings of a Content Strategy Document (CSD). Your CSD is a deliverable that can be pushed back up the chain to have the communications leader, pastors, and committees review.
- Work with the internal stakeholders to investigate what color schemes and imagery support your church’s brand. Before you talk to designers (internal groups or external agencies), get some ideas on how you would visually describe your church. Colors, photography, art, etc. can all be inspiration for this. This should be done without creating any pages or page elements. You are simply getting ideas to help start the creative process for your designers.
You are about to move out of your planning phases. If you are paying for design & development work, you are about to start spending money. So take the time to ask God about the direction you are taking things. Have a final meeting to review all the artifacts and meditate on it for a few days.
If your church’s website needs to be created or updated, start at the beginning. Your web team may be one person, and this process may take a while. But please understand that this planning will save you re-work later in the project. Take these steps and wait for my next article as I step you through the rest of the process.
Photo courtesy of Alfred Neumann