When a visitor walks through the front door of your church, everyone there likely understands the importance of making a good first impression. That’s why you assign your friendliest door greeters to the front door, have the most delicious coffee placed where visitors are sure to find it, and have clear, unmistakable signs that lead everywhere a visitor may want to go.
However, by the time a visitor has actually worked up the nerve to walk in the front door of the building, it’s likely they know more about your church than you realize. That’s because, in today’s internet-saturated culture, the front door of your church isn’t, in fact, the front door of the building. Instead, the front door of your church is the online presence that is maintained by your church. To ensure that front door is welcoming, then, it’s vital to utilize best practices by following “the 10 Commandments of church web design.” Here they are.
1. Thou Shall Utilize Pleasing Graphic Design
There’s nothing that dates a church website faster, or any website for that matter, than having outdated clip-art images on the website. Modern graphic design should be clean, simple, and useful. Graphics and backgrounds should not be used merely to fill space on a page. Instead, they should be utilized to emphasize the other content that’s on the page, helping to drive home important points and make specific content more memorable. Even if you have access to someone who’s a whiz at graphic design, the other part of this commandment is that it should be used sparingly, as going overboard can have the same effect as having none at all.
2. Thou Shall Have a Navigable Website
Even if you succeed at pleasing graphic design, you can still have a lackluster website if the design of the site itself is lacking. Everything on the website should be easy and intuitive to use, from the menus, to the media content, to the contact form. Have multiple people navigate through your site to help discover any potential sticking points that need to be cleaned up.
Another common issue is having menu options on your website that end up going unused. For most visitors, heavily outdated content will quickly turn them off, as it implies that there’s nothing exciting happening at your church. If you can’t fill a page with fresh content on a regular basis, it probably doesn’t need to exist within your website.
3. Thou Shall Be Reachable
In most cases, if a potential visitor likes what they see on your website, they’ll be inclined to take the next step. However, for some people, that next step may not be actually visiting your church. Instead, that next step may be to contact your church to find out more information. If that’s the next step someone wants to take, you want to make absolutely certain they’re able to take it with ease.
As you build your website, it’s important to include every contact method imaginable, so those who are interested can interact as they please. Whether it’s through social media, email, or phone, let website visitors know that you’re a connected church. It’s not enough to just have these options, but you also have to be responsive to these various channels so that folks can actually get their questions answered.
4. Thou Shall Be Approachable
Everyone appreciates a good leader. It’s likely that your church has several good leaders who help keep everything running smoothly. If so, it’s crucial that you highlight these leaders to help potential visitors gain some insight into the personality of your church. Include a picture, of course, but also include a brief and fun biography to help readers make a personal connection with the person they’re reading about. This will help visitors feel less like an outsider when they do decide to visit in person.
5. Thou Shall Use Actual Photography
It can be incredibly tempting to use stock photography across your website when a particular page calls for images instead of graphics. However, if you decide to go this route, you’re missing out on another opportunity to connect with potential visitors. By using actual photos of the people and events of your church, website visitors gain a clearer picture of what life is like at your church. This can help make it easier for them to decide whether or not they’d like to stop by for a visit. Of course, any time you’re putting pictures on a public platform, it’s absolutely crucial to gain the permission of those in the photo, or if the photo has minors in it, then the parents or guardians.
6. Thou Shall Include Videos That Are Worth Watching
Video is one of the best ways to attract and engage potential visitors. Videos, more than any other media type, paint a full picture of the personality and humanity of your church. You can include videos of sermons, special events, testimonies, just about anything. Any type of video content will, almost always, attract more attention than any other kind of content on a page. That said, as it does draw attention, it’s crucial the videos you post are of the highest quality possible, as a low-quality video can do far more damage than no video at all.
7. Thou Shall Make the Most of the Website
Of course, your church’s website can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. However, since you’ve got a functioning website, why not make the most of it? To utilize the site for all it’s worth, you may consider incorporating elements that assist with ecommerce for churches. This can be as simple as having a “donate” link somewhere on the page, so that people can give electronically, or as complex as having a full online store with content produced by your church and items carrying your church’s logo.
8. Thou Shall Include the Sermons
As much as is practical, it’s crucial to include sermon content on your church’s website. This content serves attendees by allowing them to listen when they can’t be there and visitors by giving them extra insight into the beliefs and style of your church. As far as personnel and equipment will allow, post as much content as possible related to every sermon, including video, audio, a written transcript, and any outlines that were used during the service.
9. Thou Shall Make the Website Responsive
You can work and work for days or weeks to get your website looking great, but unless you’ve designed it to be responsive to mobile web browsers, it’s going to look terrible to more than half of the people who visit it. Over 52% of web traffic originates from a mobile browser, meaning that if your website isn’t responsive, you’ll quickly lose the attention of a demographic that’s likely extremely valuable to your church: Millennials. By upgrading the website to a responsive experience, you show you care about this demographic as you also show that you care about your web presence.
10. Thou Shall Remember Your Church
It’s okay to have a hip and cool website design. It really is. However, if the church the website represents is more on the traditional side and has no plans to change, you may want to dial back a bit on the “hipness.” That’s not to say you can’t have elements that appeal to a younger demographic- in fact, you can and should. At the same time, it’s essential that the website accurately captures the overall vibe of your church so that if a visitor shows up based on what they saw online, they don’t feel like they were misled. Every church has good elements. Highlight those, and you’ll be well on your way to attracting visitors.
The Eleventh Commandment: Have Fun
The most important thing to remember as you’re designing your church’s website is to have fun. Don’t let the creation of a new website become a chore, as that burden will be felt in the design of the website. Enjoy the time you put into it, get others involved, and before you know it, you’ll have a beautiful new front door in place that’s ready to welcome guests to your church.
Here are 3 great articles we think you’ll really enjoy that discuss some of the things from this article in more detail: