3 Things Every Church Website Needs in 2019
The online world is a bit like the clothing industry. Styles are here one day and gone tomorrow, …and then recycled back into the mix a few years later.
In the same way, website design is constantly in a state of flux. Colors that are trending one year are nowhere to be seen a short twelve or eighteen months later. Fonts come and go.
However, there are a few constants that don’t tend to change quite as easily as the wind these days. Let’s go over some crucial website elements that continue to be priorities as 2019 unfolds.
User Experience Matters
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the experience that a person has when they visit your website.
While it’s easy to hop onto your home page, click through a few menu options, and decide that everything is laid out adequately, the truth is, providing a good user experience for your site typically take a bit more work than that.
From fast load times to prioritizing the right content, there are plenty of things that should be carefully taken into consideration.
The one that I want to focus on here, though, is the subtle concept of building trust through a logical progression of understanding.
You want every aspect of your site — from the home page welcoming visitors to the church member information — to be laid out in a way that draws each user into the experience and rewards them with the information they’re looking for when they’re most likely to need it.
For example, if you have a homepage that is plastered with event info, mission statements, and requests to give financially, you’re going to scare away everyone who lays eyes on it for more than a couple of seconds.
On the other hand, if you bury your donation button so that it’s impossible to find, you’re likely going to deprive yourself of a key source of financial support.
As you go about building and updating your website, you want to make sure to take conscious steps to craft each and every page with the end user in mind.
Lay out clear paths for them to follow and make sure information is readily available. Here are a couple of suggestions to help get the ball rolling:
The Homepage. Create your homepage as a simple yet attractive hub to receive visitors to your site and seamlessly usher them on to the next page that they’re looking for.
The Menu. Order your menu with an eye towards who will be reading it. English reads from left to right, so I typically suggest that you start on the left with potential church visitor-oriented things like “Plan Your Visit”, “Contact us,” or “About” pages. After that, you can include some meatier content like sermons, events, or giving.
Create Pathways. Strive to create a purposeful progression throughout your site. If a visitor reaches your homepage, have an informational page or a “Plan Your Visit” button easy to find. Once they click on it, walk them through what they should expect if they visit your church. Don’t be so detailed that you overwhelm them with data. However, make sure to include basics like sermon times, worship styles, what will happen to their children during the service, and if you have a dress expectation or not.
The point of creating pathways and a logical progression is to foster a sense of trust with each user, whether it’s encouraging a potential visitor to come to your Sunday service or showing a member how to easily and securely give their tithe online.
Make Google Happy
While it’s easy to get hung up on the looks and functionality of your site, at the end of the day if Google doesn’t like it, there’s a good chance no one is going to find it. That’s why you want to take the time to make sure your site is SEO optimized.
While proper SEO optimization can be a huge project (trust me, it’s still worth it!) here are a few quick tips to consider implementing to tidy things up ASAP.
Clean up your site’s titles and descriptions. First off, make sure that each page on your site has title and meta descriptions that are thoughtfully filled out.
These are on the backend of your website — meaning users don’t typically see them — but they’re super important. Those little descriptions are a key element that Google looks at when deciding how to rank your site. Make sure to take the time to properly fill them out!
Utilize links. Linking within your site can be a great way to boost its rankings. It’s important to choose good anchor text when you do this. For example, the sentence “Listen to last week’s sermon.” should have the words “last week’s sermon” link to a site’s sermon page.
A quick note on links: don’t use too many, as Google is getting smart enough to judge if a reasonable number of links are being used. Simply try to link both within your site and to other quality websites whenever the opportunity naturally arises.
Fill out your Google My Business Listing. It’s always worth taking the time to make sure that your GMB listing is up to date with the correct information.
For further tips on SEO optimization, check out my article The Ultimate Church Plant Digital Marketing Guide.
Quality Graphics Count!
Finally, when it comes to the visuals for your church website, make sure that you invest the time to provide quality content.
For example, good pictures of your church building and congregation can help develop that sense of trust and warmth for potential visitors.
When you make your own graphics, don’t feel pressured to pour a ton of money into the project, either. There are plenty of ways to create an excellent church graphic without needing to resort to expensive options like Shutterstock or hiring a graphic artist.
Again, you can get my full breakdown on church graphics (along with a huge selection of free stock photo sites and editor tools) in my article Church Graphics A Step-By-Step Guide.
Keep Your Site in Tip Top Shape
While there are always a million things to keep in mind as you go about curating your website, these three critical elements should be at the top of your list.
Creating a trust-building user experience, optimizing for SEO, and using quality graphics to enhance your site’s visual appeal are all worth investing in as we all do our best to weather the constantly changing and shifting demands of maintaining an online presence.