website designs

4 Common Church Website Mistakes

A good church website is absolutely vital to a church’s online presence. Our culture has changed so much since the advent of the internet and it’s clear that people’s usage of digital devices continues to evolve. One obvious pattern is that whenever someone wants to find out about your church they will google it. Before I visit a new restaurant I visit the website. It is just standard practice now.

Thanks to the digital revolution, people’s first impressions begin long before they even arrive at a church’s premises. Before they have met a single person from your community. A church website should give the visitor a feel for your community. It should provide all the important information in an easy to navigate way. A church’s website will be a visitor’s first impression and as such it matters.

Yet sadly I see many churches making some key mistakes with their websites. Let’s explore some of the common mistakes I see on church websites.

binoculars looking at sunset

1. UNCLEAR VISION

This is perhaps the most common thing I see on church websites. It is really difficult to understand why your church exists and what it is most passionate about. The best websites make this really clear from the home page.

Visitors to your site should ideally leave feeling like they understand something of what makes you tick. That will be a combination of a feeling created by the imagery, colours and but also through well written text.

If I’m honest I understand why this is so often an issue. Defining a clear vision for your church is a bigger challenge than writing a few words on a website, or finding the right imagery. It requires the hard work of discerning that vision as a leadership team, crafting the communication of that message and then implementing and revising it as time goes on.

If there is fuzziness around vision and purpose it sadly tends to show on a website. This leaves visitors unclear on who you are.

Person taking notes

2. INSIDER FOCUSSED

When I chat to churches about their websites one of the first questions I ask is: what is the purpose of this website?

Unpacking that helps to clarify the goal we are working towards. Given that a website is so often about first impressions for people I normally try to encourage churches to think about who might be visiting for the first time. Perhaps people of no faith who are interested in finding out more or perhaps people with faith who are looking for a new church.

Sadly many church websites I see focus primarily on serving the existing congregation. Now there is a place for this, but it is about getting the balance right. You may want a members section or somewhere they can find out all the latest news. However not at the expense of clarity for a new person arriving. Technology makes it easy to separate your congregation’s targeted communications and your public messages.

A good church website should be welcoming and help your church accomplish your mission. A website that is focussed on “insiders” will naturally frustrate the visitors. Websites that are developed to welcome and draw people in who have no faith will help a church fulfil its desire to reach out.

cluttered book shop

3. CLUTTERED

When it comes to good communication I am a huge fan of the principles of simplicity and brevity. Where there are many words there can be confusion.

Simplicity and brevity are hard work however. Particularly for churches for some reason! Perhaps it is because we are people of the word that we especially love the written form?!

Again it comes back to understanding the purpose of your website. I’d suggest that very rarely should the purpose of your site be to document every detail about your church. You want to present to people a level of detail that makes it easy to draw them in. You can have all the detail that some people need, just don’t present it up front.

I have seen some websites which become document storage systems. So there are downloads for how to set up the Sunday PA system at church and all the rotas for all the teams available publicly on the site. Data privacy concerns aside, this is not a good use of your main site. This could be a great member section or perhaps it can all be handled privately via email?

So simplifying things down, perhaps you only give them a maximum of 6 items in your main menu and one or two main call to action buttons.

The more items you present at once the more likely people will get lost and just leave because they can’t decide. Decision fatigue is a real thing. We want to make people’s lives easy and guide them towards the main actions we think they will need.

Simplicity is hard though. It requires us to decide what is most important. We can have a tendency to think that everything is important. This results in everything shouting at a user and therefore it all becomes equally unimportant.

Deciding on the top 3 usages for your website can be a helpful process here. Analysing the analytics you already have for your site can also help. You may be surprised by what is most used.

old church membership roll

4. OUT OF DATE

Like it or not we live in an image conscious world. A website that is not appealing to look at or feels like it hasn’t been updated in several years is majorly off putting.

Most church websites should be thinking about a refresh every 4 years. Some more often.

Now some of this is because trends change. What once looked smart and fresh becomes quickly dated. This may not matter to you, but trust me it matters to many people. They may not be able to articulate it but your website will leave a bad impression.

Websites are more than functional tools. They reveal a church’s attitude to the culture around it. Is this church still relevant? Your teaching and your ministry can be really relevant but if your website is not – that will have an impact on who comes in.

Even for those who are part of your congregation – is the website something they will gladly point their colleagues and family to? Are they proud of it?

As the church we also have the opportunity to reveal to the world the beauty of our creativity. 

We are calling people to worship the God who made mountains and sunsets. Our digital creativity has the potential to invite people into an experience of a creative God. We can honour God and inspire people with our fresh and creative website. It should be both functional and aesthetic.

As well as the presentation aspect of a website – if the content is out of date, that is an even bigger issue. 

If the BBQ your church planned 3 years ago is still on the home page, people might be mistaken for thinking that your church has ceased to exist. It is better to have no regular updates to your site, with mostly static pages than to have old content sitting in prominent places.

CHURCH WEBSITES MATTER

A church’s website plays a really important role within our wider culture. Done well it reflects a church’s values and vision and invites others in. It communicates and it inspires. It engages and it connects.

When it comes to your church’s next website update, what will you do differently?

Some of these reasons above are why I have created Church Site Builder. Church websites made easy. Pick a fresh design and get a single page or more complex site up and running in no time. I can’t help you clarify your vision but I can make it easy to have a modern, clean and simple to update site.

If you want help with that process then do get in touch.