The problem is that most church website design is done without carefully planning the information. I know it's hard to do this type of planning, especially when it competes with being creative or getting your information "out there" quickly. But questions need to be answered first, such as: Who are you building the website for? What do they need to know? How will they navigate your site to get what they need and want? These need to be considered way ahead of picking color schemes and layouts.
Here are the common issues that where especially perplexing to me:
- Hey. I want to know where you are. The purpose of being on the web is to let people know where you are. Don't hide the information. Make it front and center. It is a quick way for a searcher to consider distances and proximity.
- I want to know who you are. For some reason there are churches who don't want to reveal what they believe, value, do, or came from. Maybe it's a bait-and-switch approach, just oversight, or it doesn't really matter to them so much. In any event, it comes across like they're hiding something.
- Do you have any plans? Part of a church's appeal is seeing that they have some aspirations, dreams, or plans. If they just exist — which may be fine for people looking for a place to just hang out — it's not very compelling.
- It's nice to know what your kids are doing. (That's unless you have no such concern.) Believe me, many parents, who value the spiritual development of their kids, want to know how a church handles them. And even some parents without kids want to know what a church thinks about kids, because they envision a future with them. However, having a children and teen ministry really isn't the issue. It's about vision, plans, and tangible actions. Do you take kids — or rather families — seriously?
- Who are the ministers and staff? Yes. People want to know who you are. It's more personable and approachable. It's attractive. Don't be afraid to share pictures and commentary from each individual. It's great when staff can be revealed by answering some goofy questions about themselves.
- Please keep your site current. It's nice to know that the church picnic will be held on Saturday. What isn't so nice is finding out Saturday was in 1995. So in the planning stage — along with considering your audience — please make sure to answer: How will we keep the site updated? Who will do it? And When?
- Being transparent is a good thing. Like I mentioned above, don't be the church that appears different in person than it does on its website. Your language, tone, content, and visual design should fit who you are. And be more in-depth about what a visitor is to expect when visiting you. No surprises please.