Websites are about first impressions. Within a few seconds, someone visiting your site can start to understand who you are and begin contemplating if your church is something they want to explore more. One of the biggest turn-offs for users is a site that looks like it hasn’t been touched for years. As you think about what first impressions you want your church to make online, here are some keys for modernizing your website.
Image driven. A good first step is to add more images to your website. A better second step is to make them bigger. I laid out my case for using more images and videos in previous posts (here and here), but the truth is we live in an image driven culture. Visitors to your site are not going to sift through endless text to learn about you. They will quickly glance at the images to start deciding if your church is for them.
Minimalistic design. Along with big images comes the need for less writing. Simple, minimal design leaves room for content to breathe. Open space creates breaks between different content areas and makes the site easier to navigate. Simple design isn’t easy. It takes a lot of restraint, editing and learning to say more with less.
Example: Doxa Church
Example: The Oaks Fellowship
A guided experience. One of the most confusing parts of a website can be figuring out where to go to find the information you’re seeking. Think about the key audiences that will be coming to your site. What info do they need? What problems are they trying to solve? Use that information to structure your homepage in a way that creates clear paths of where someone, like a first time visitor, should focus their attention and click to get more information. Every piece of content you create should have a clear answer to “what do I do next?” Figure out your call to action and create the navigation to make that happen.
Example: Gateway Church
Example: Watermark Church – New Here Page
Example: Northstar Church
Real representation. Visiting a church website should be like walking through the front door of the actual building. Think about the culture of your church and what it’s like to be a part of that. How can you show that on your website? Photos help, but think about colors, writing style, atmosphere, passions, programs, community, people and life-changing stories. The worst thing you can do it present yourself different online than in person. Often church websites don’t show the full greatness of who you are in person, and that’s a great problem.
Example: Black Rock Church
Example: Glad Tidings Church - Stories Page
Device indifferent. Your website has to function regardless of which device someone is using. Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop, people want your site to work on whichever platform they’re using. Responsive design, which adjusts a single website into different arrangements based on screen size, is a great way to make your site ready for a device of any kind. A mobile-friendly site is also increasingly important, as Google takes that into consideration in search result rankings. If your site is not optimized for mobile users, your spot in search results will fall. (You can check if Google thinks your website is mobile friendly here.)
Example: City on a Hill
(The image at the top of this post is a screenshot of the Christian Centre homepage.)