Most of the competitions at the Houston rodeo last mere seconds. As onlookers, the time flies by faster than the horse around the barrel, but imagine what those few seconds are like for the competitors. Every moment counts. They’re focused before the chute opens, plotting every move, and the event is over before they know it. Precision wass the difference between ranking or going home empty handed.
This isn’t far from what it’s like every time someone visits your church’s website. The average person’s attention span is the same as a qualifying bull ride: 8 seconds. Your website has eight seconds to capture a guest’s attention.
If you’ll allow us to switch analogies, good design is like a suit in a job interview; it communicates that you’re professional, ready to work, and have come prepared. Church web design needs to convey hospitality, the same they would experience walking in your front door to your digital door. Well-thought out web design shows that you understand what visitors are looking for and have plotted out a clear path for them to follow.
“Your website has eight seconds to capture a guest’s attention.”
Your website is your digital hq, your home and castle, but that doesn’t mean it’s a repository for the random. Having a clear direction for your website means that some things are front and center and others may not even be necessary. The freedom of “owning” your website, as opposed to renting on Facebook or other social channels, is that you can structure it anyway you want. Social media channels only give their platform’s standard layout, but a website has endless possibilities. The best one is the one that presents information clearly and fits your church’s identity.
The form of your website should follow the function, and the function is to answer questions your visitors might have about your church. The way you answer those questions will reflect the personality and convictions of your church. Since content is king, let’s talk about what necessary details need to be on your website.
What do visitors need to know if they’re planning their first visit? Tell visitors whether or not there is special parking for them. Let them know where their main destination is on a Sunday morning, which building and what to do with their kids. It’s also comforting when visitors have an idea of what to wear and what takes place during a service. Start times and locations are more than helpful; end times are only useful if your service doesn’t last the typical ninety minutes. The new visitors’ section is also the place to let them know if there is a connection table or booth where they can ask questions in person.
Who are you as a church? The homepage is the ideal place to put a brief explainer video of what your church’s mission is. Inform visitors as to your goals and what you’re doing to achieve them, and what you’ve done to arrive where you are now. Another page about the church could list denominational or network affiliations, doctrinal statements, core values, and partner ministries. A brief history of how your church came to be can help establish a more personal connection.
“Inform visitors as to your goals and what you’re doing to achieve them, and what you’ve done to arrive where you are now.”
Who leads your church? Staff pictures are not optional. I repeat: staff pictures are not optional. If the overarching goal is to establish trust by answering questions, then having pictures of your leadership goes a long way in doing that; add a short biography, and you’ve essentially run a marathon. Show your top-level leadership, ministry staff, and office staff. The only exception would be in churches that have more than two dozen employees.
How can I get connected? A directory of ministries will show how an individual can get involved in the life of the church. These are your different ministries, Bible studies, and events. Having both a list of programs coupled with a calendar will help introduce visitors to the group and see visually when their next opportunity to join in is.
How can I grow? Every pastor loves to give resources for their church to mature, and the website is the perfect place to host them. These can be organized by either type of media – articles, podcasts, books, and videos – or by topic. Podcast feeds can make old sermons difficult to find, so make sure they’re categorized and searchable.
There are visual elements that should be present on the site: your church’s logo, photos of your people, and any welcome videos you have. Your church’s logo embodies its visual identity and should dictate the colors and scheme of the entire website. As stated before, high quality photos of your people, both staff and laity, will help personalize the church and show how well your church reflects your community. Welcome videos can give a brief overview of everything you are, do, and plan to do.
Half of internet traffic is from a mobile device, so mobile-optimization is unavoidable. Too many people will leave your site if it isn’t easily accessible from their phones. Most sites can be tested by grabbing the side of your internet browser and changing the width. Does your content change and respond to the width? If not, then it’s not likely your site is mobile friendly.
“Half of internet traffic is from a mobile device, so mobile-optimization is unavoidable.”
Focus on new visitors on your home page and have a clear call-to-action (CTA). Invite them to know more or see your page for new visitors. This is how you can drive engagement, by leading people to it by design and asking for it in a CTA. This can guide them through a specific funnel that answers their questions and helps influence their decision to visit.