Your congregation does not attend services because of your branding. An attractive and well thought out logo does not bring new members through the door. The teaching, culture, and community are far more important than the color of your building. Then why does improving a website tend to involve redesigning everything? Focus on regular content updates instead of aesthetic changes to create a better experience for your users.
If you have keep your ears open in the web community, you will undoubtedly hear the phrase “content is king”. Well it is. As I explained in my examples above, aesthetics only go so far when it comes to keeping people attending your church services, or people using your website. In fact, I would say that when designing aesthetics, you should include content. Often the people designing the page templates do not even see what the content looks like, let alone have it to consult while they are working. It is like throwing a carton of eggs over a wall and hoping the person on the other side is ready to catch them. I talked about how this is a problem, but now I will delve into steps you can take to prevent this from happening.
Content Strategy Review
This should be a review of your content strategy guide. See what content is still applicable to your site. Review it to see how it matches up to your church’s current high-level goals. Is the content still relevant, or should it be archived or even deleted. For instance, you can prominently display a page with information about your current pastor. Then provide a less visually prominent link to an archived listing of all past pastors. This way you keep all of that content, but of course subdue the less important information.
Knowing all of the pieces and parts of your content is great, but what does it actually say? Export all of your content to your favorite word processor and have your staff review their assigned pieces. If you can afford it, hire a professional web copywriter to review these updated pages, posts, and snippets. They can unify and refine the voice of your website and catch the unavoidable grammar or spelling error.
At this point, you can often stop the design process. Make your changes and see how they affect your site’s traffic. You have already spent a considerable amount of time and money. Wait and see what your ROI is. If you are not satisfied or feel that an updated look & feel is required, then move on to step #3.
Redesign with Content
If you still feel that you want to change the colors, branding, or layout of the site; still perform the previous two steps. But do them before you start the design process internally, or even start shopping for a design agency. Allowing the designer to create the pages with the actual content will allow them to more accurately solve the problems they face. Your site will greatly benefit, and your designer will be much happier with you!
Again, before you feel the need to up and redesign your entire website, consider the most important part of it. I have given plenty of metaphors and examples as to why you wouldn’t make only aesthetic changes to your church. So please step back and examine your situation before jumping into an expensive and sometimes unnecessary redesign of your graphics.
Step through at least the first two steps I listed in this article every time you review or update your church’s high-level goals. If they are changing, then the website content that is supporting them will be changing. Review and update your content as required, and if possible, review it at a more global level to ensure it is consistent and unified. Then of course, track changes in your site analytics to ensure the changes were the correct ones.
Note: This article was inspired by a podcast from Jared Spool, where he interviews Karen McGrane on the subject of content strategy.
Photo courtesy of Brenton Nicholls