In recent years, church websites have evolved from glorified online flyers to digital front doors, to spaces where ministry actually occurs. Today’s hardest working church websites serve to attract and welcome guests, provide clear instructions on how newcomers can join in worship, and accomplish a bevy of ministry-specific goals, such as facilitating online giving, spreading the word about missions, finding classes, recruiting volunteers, live streaming and storing sermons, and offering opportunities to connect with the unique message a church is putting forward.
A church website redesign with these intentions can be extremely overwhelming, which is why some churches put the process off as long as possible, even when there’s a clear disconnect between a church website and its actual culture.
If you’re considering a church website redesign, consider these three expert insights:
#1 – New Websites Don’t Magically Fix Old Problems, Especially When You Can’t Even Define Them.
It often turns out that when churches decide to move forward with website redesigns, it’s because they’re hoping a new version of their site will solve problems they can’t really pinpoint. An experienced church website design team, like the experts at Ekklesia 360, will tell you that a fresh coat of code isn’t going to achieve a lasting impact if it’s not built to support specific goals.
For Sheree Howard, Director of Worship and Communications at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas, redesigning the church’s website – just four years after it had been refreshed – was worth the extra effort.
“It communicates to the outside world that there’s life going on in your church; you’re not stagnant. Nobody wants to go to a stagnant church,” Howard explains.
Think about your ministry-related initiatives that are coming in the next year or so. Are you expanding to a second campus? Maybe you are hoping to improve your outreach or children’s ministry? Knowing what you want to do and envisioning the website with a role in supporting your goals is critical. Maybe you’ll need a live streaming layout, a missions page, or a children’s ministry page to tell these stories and inspire involvement.
Howard’s vision for Gloria Dei was a website that was a realistic reflection of what her multi-site church believes.
“I think being true to who you are is really important. If you’re a traditional church like us, you probably shouldn’t have a lights and lasers website with millennials jumping up and down in a dark worship service with a fog machine if it’s not who you are,” jokes Howard.
Make sure to establish goals you can communicate clearly so your website does more than just look pretty.
#2 – Strategy Isn’t Just for Boardrooms
A church website redesign should be intentional, and that intention should be to reach more people with the gospel
Americans receive over 10,000 branded messages every day – messages about how products can improve lives, give purpose, or inspire joy. Messages spread quickly, and your church website can go global if you build it strategically. This means thinking beyond how you want it to look and imagining what you want it to do, then putting a plan into action to make sure your message is the search result visitors encounter.
What if your church’s website strategy used search engine optimization (SEO) to have your church’s Divorce Care events rank high when someone in your geographic area performed a Google search for a divorce lawyer? What if people could ask a smart device to play your church’s worship setlist from the last service to restore hope during a desperate time? What if when someone searched for help with a mental illness, your church’s sermon about Christ’s restoration and freedom was their first search result? What if your website was the stage for stories of life change?
It’s possible. If you’re going to go pursue a church website redesign, prioritize building a content strategy based on your church’s mission.
#3 – Functionality is Lost Without Navigation
Your church website redesign can look bright, shiny, and new, but if users (both members and newcomers) can’t easily find what they’re looking for, then you’ve wasted efforts. Don’t just assume that a path you think is logical (homepage: about: contact) will seem as intuitive to others.
In addition to a fresh look and feel, Howard wanted a site that was very functional.
We did the redesign for guests, obviously, but also half of it was for our members so that it would be easy for them to navigate around and find the things that they need.” She says. “We use our website as a hub for everything that we do for registrations and getting information out.”
Make sure the amazing features you want to include in your church website redesign, like a contact form that lets guests plan their first visit and notifies the pastor they’re coming, isn’t buried in a series of clicks that will limit the number of people who actually use it. Test navigation with a wide audience and adjust when necessary to make sure the most important pages are easy to find and use, both on computers and devices.
The mobile view and navigation bar should be just as powerful as its desktop counterpart. Make sure to have outsiders give you unbiased feedback as they try to find pages and connect.
If you’re ready to start your church website redesign, look for a firm that not only helps you define your goals, but is also energized and passionate in helping you achieve them. Be sure to check out Ekklesia360. They even offer a free Mission Online Assessment that gives strategic recommendations for your church’s website.
Check out 10 Simple Solutions to some Common Church Website Problems for a simple audit of your site.