When it comes to website design, nothing stays the same for long. Technology is constantly changing. People’s online habits and expectations are always evolving. What worked last year might not make sense today.
On top of that, church websites in particular must serve a variety of audiences and meet a multitude of needs. It’s a unique challenge to say the least.
Before you start your next church website redesign, consider these five mindsets that might be a shift from traditional thinking, but put you in the right frame of mind to create an effective church website.
1. Lean on data for decision making.
When you start a church website design project, you’re going to encounter lots of opinions about what should go where and how it should be organized. While you want to accommodate all ministries and programs, everything can’t be top priority.
Familiarizing yourself with your current website’s performance metrics can help you build a case for how your new website should be structured and organized. Use a tool like Google Analytics to understand:
- The most popular areas of your website, as well as those that are not visited.
- The devices and browsers people use to access your site.
- How long visitors stay on your site.
- How visitors flow through the pages of your site.
- What geographic areas your visitors come from.
While data isn’t the only factor in decision making, it can help guide you as you work to maximize your site’s effectiveness.
2. Think “mobile first.”
Over half of all web traffic worldwide is now coming from mobile devices, so there’s a good chance the majority of your traffic is from people browsing on phones or tablets with small screens.
If you’re on church staff, you likely access your church website using a laptop or desktop computer at work — so it can be easy to forget that you’re having a different experience than many of your visitors.
As you work on updating or redesigning your website, the mobile experience should be your primary consideration, not an afterthought.
Go ahead and give it a try now! Access your church website on your phone or tablet. Can you access the navigation easily? Is the text large enough to read? Are buttons large enough to click? If you find anything frustrating or confusing, your visitors are likely having issues as well.
3. Adopt an outward-in approach.
Churches have a vocabulary and culture all their own. If you’ve grown up in church, worked at one, or been around one for any length of time, it starts to become familiar, and even second nature. We know the lingo. We get the ministries. It’s fun to be a part of the club.
But that familiarity can be dangerous in the website design process. The church lingo and culture can feel very foreign to your website visitors that don’t come from a church background.
Shifting your mindset to an outward-in approach can help ensure you don’t alienate your website visitors who may not be as comfortable or familiar with church.
Forget about how your church is structured internally or how your ministries are managed. Set up your website so that it immediately makes sense to someone who knows nothing about your church’s innerworkings. Use vocabulary that is common to everyone and avoid those “church words” that aren’t general knowledge.
4. Don’t try to “reinvent the wheel.”
This may feel a little counter-intuitive. When it comes to creative projects like a website redesign, the impulse is to want to be as creative and unique as possible. But there are many conventions when it comes to website design, and if you break these conventions without a good reason, you could make it really frustrating for your visitors.
For example, most websites follow a pattern where the logo is on the top left, navigation is at the top right, and the header gives a short introduction.
The advantage of using this standard layout is most website visitors will know immediately where to look for things, and they don’t waste time clicking around or feel confused.
There is still plenty you can do to make this framework your own and show your church’s unique personality. But it’s important to keep in mind that originality isn’t necessarily the chief goal for a church website — serving the needs of your visitors and members is.
A good way to test the intuitiveness of your website design and navigation is to watch someone new use your site. Ask them to find something specific, like your physical address, children’s ministry director, or last week’s sermon video. Did they find it the first try or did they take a few wrong turns? Did they give up on the navigation and go to the search bar? Try this with several different people of various ages and familiarity with your church. You’ll learn something every time.
5. Prioritize follow-up processes.
It’s important to remember your website isn’t an end in itself. Instead, we want it to be simply the first step in connecting people with each other and your church. It’s a mode of communication for people to express needs, seek involvement, and ask questions.
There is nothing more frustrating than filling out a form, making a phone call, or sending an email, only to receive nothing in return or be re-routed endlessly.
Make sure you have foolproof follow-up processes that ensure people who inquire via your website (or through other channels) get quick, helpful responses. Clearly assign this to one individual, not a group where it’s easier to get confused about who responded. If a volunteer is responsible for this follow-up, ensure a staff member is also providing quality control.
What do you think?
Did you use these mindsets when you redesigned your church website?
Will these mindset shifts change your approach to your next website update?
Amanda Dyer is co-founder and creative director at Landslide Creative, a Nashville-based creative agency specializing in custom website design and development for churches and mission-driven organizations.