When it comes to church website design it can be hard to design something that will attract people to actually visit. It’s not uncommon to find sections that seem like they should be current, but they aren’t. This is definitely something that will keep people away. In my view there is little excuse for things like empty events calendars or a sermon page whose most recent sermon is from last Christmas. If you’re not going to update things like events calendars, people aren’t going to visit, so don’t have them on your church website.
I’m a big advocate of creating church websites based on how they’re going to be used. If you’re not going to be updating your church website on a regular basis, then don’t have elements that need updating, but don’t expect tuns of visitors. Having a static site that only has your address, contact info and worship time is better than having a website that doesn’t deliver on what it promises.
If you do want visitors to your church website, one of the best ways to encourage that is to have new content that they will be interested in seeing or reading. To some, this may sound like a daunting task, and for some it might be, but it doesn’t have to be.
The first and most important element in designing a church website that people actually visit is to make sure you are using a platform, or Content Management System, that is simple and easy to use. There are a lot of companies out there that will help you set up a church website, but not all of them are easy to use, or do they necessarily give you the ability to make changes yourself, which is also important. Personally I use WordPress for all the websites I design including church websites. WordPress is very user friendly and has a large design and support base, so you should be able to find any support you might need. WordPress is also open source software and free to use, proving that having a good church website doesn’t have to break the budget. Here are a couple of examples of church websites designed by me with WordPress.
When your church website is on an easy to use platform it’s not as hard to get other people up to speed to help with the maintenance. For many churches though, that still needs to be easy. The following are some simple ways to keep your church website fresh.
Have a short excerpt of the sermon on the homepage. (If you don’t currently post sermons, why not?) Sermons are easy content as generally they are already written. If the minister doesn’t write sermons ask them to write up some of the important points afterwards and post those. If that’s all they write in the first place, not a problem, just use that, it’s still new content for the website. If people heard the sermon it can serve as a reminder, and if they didn’t, it can get them thinking and maybe asking some questions. This should be easy to setup if you are using a platform that has an integrated blog like WordPress. Just use a plugin like the advanced recent posts widget.
If you or the minister at your church are concerned about posting things online, I encourage you to read this post on the website Internet Toolbox for Churches. Dave does a great job at assessing many of common fears I hear about posting online.
Another easy thing to do is to incorporate the RSS feed from your denomination or another organization you think people will be interested in. An RSS feed automatically updates with the latest information published by a website. Most websites have one and it’s usually not too hard to set up an area of your church website to display one. This lets people keep up with more than just your congregation when they visit your site.
People love to look at pictures and with cameras being in most people’s pockets most of the time these days, there are lots to look at. Adding pictures of an event to your church website is a great way to encourage people to visit the site. Services like Flickr and Picasa let you easily create an album. They also give you code which you can then copy and paste into your church website, and presto instant photo gallery.
There you go, a few relatively easy things you can do to design a church website that people actually visit. Let me know how it goes.
What are some other simple ways to encourage people to visit your church webiste?