laptop and mobile phone

What Makes For a Great Church Website Design?

Most people can recognise a great church website when they see one, but it takes skill and experience to understand how to produce a great design.

I’ve been working with churches for years, helping them with their websites and I’ve learnt a few things along the way. So if you are about to embark on a church website update or refresh then why don’t you see how your plans shape up with the points below.

Let’s explore together what makes for a great church design?

1. Easy To Navigate

The most important thing for any design is that it serves the function of your website. Most people are at your website to find out information. It perhaps sounds too obvious to state, but it should be easy for people to find what they are looking for on your site.

It may seem obvious but there is a reason that many large businesses spend a lot of money hiring professionals to look at the usability of a website. Common sense is not always common practice.

Take a moment and put yourself in the shoes(browser?) of a visitor to your site. What are the primary things they might want to explore and is it obvious how to find those.

The process of creating a church website that is easy to navigate begins with defining a clear structure and hierarchy. If everything on your website is the most important thing then unfortunately nothing is really important. A lack of structure can lead to overwhelm.

When it comes to websites there are some common practices that make this process easier. It is nearly always better to do something predictable than something fresh and unexpected.

In general you should have a menu at the top of your page, often to the top right, that lists the top 5-6 most important pages. Clicking these should take you to those pages and your menu should display well on mobile (more on that later). As challenging as it can be it is vital you keep this menu as simple and clear as possible.

If there is one thing you know people visit your site for the most (great analytics can help show this) then make that item really obvious. Perhaps you want a button which is visible on the first load that takes them there.

Long pages have become more popular since most people now browse the web on their phones. It is now often easier to scroll down than navigate to a separate page. Most mobile phones are portrait in orientation and so lend themselves to this.

If you go for this approach then make sure you split your page into clearly marked sections and provide a way of either jumping back to the top or accessing your menu at all times. Otherwise people can get lost, or bored scrolling forever!

Giving some thought to these simple navigation tips will help you build a great church website design.

2. Uncluttered Design

cluttered book shop

We are all being bombarded with information all day. Advertisements and various forms of media are everywhere. To stand out from the crowd a great church website design leaves a person with a moment of peace.

An uncluttered church website design reduces anxiety and improves the overall usability of your website. It’s the difference between walking into a clean kitchen with very little on the work surfaces and walking into a kitchen with dirty dishes everywhere, piled high, cupboards open and mess on the floor.

An uncluttered design also shows you have intentionally thought about it.

Your church website can look so much better by simply adding in more whitespace. This is the space between things. Rather than butting text right next to each other – let things breathe.

Sections should be spaced out, photos should not feel claustrophobic.

Less really is more.

As people’s viewing habits have changed, people expect shorter sections of text. Rather than long paragraphs, split them into smaller chunks. Even in pages that are designed to be longer form articles, add graphics or photos that create space and break up the flow.

Don’t be afraid of having empty space – use it to highlight the main focus.

An uncluttered design is vital to a great impression for visitors to your church website.

3. Visitor Focussed

Taking time to consider the main audience of your website is really important. If you are not sure who you are targeting then your site is much more likely to be confusing and cluttered.

For most churches, who exist to reach their communities with good news, your primary audience shouldn’t be your congregation.

Yes, I’m sure your congregation do use your website (perhaps the most!), but as a public representation of who you are, your website provides a great opportunity to make a first impression for visitors.

If your website’s main purpose becomes another place for internal communications then it will become messy. It is far better to keep your internal communications separate, in a members section or through other channels, than try and confuse your website.

By providing lots of information that is only relevant to those already part of your congregation you will leave any visitor feeling like an outsider. Your website is not the place for your serving rotas, training manuals or your congregation’s private information.

Your website is where people considering connecting with you will go first. So what would you want to say to that visitor to let them know who you are and how they can connect?

Great church website designs are focussed on the visitor, not the congregation.

They expect guests to their site and their content reflects that.

4. Great Visuals

Getting your text content right matters a lot. Most churches get the importance of the written word. But just as important are the photos and videos on your website.

These other forms of media have great power to create an emotion within a visitor. Photographs that capture who you are and the vision of your church will often do more than your vision statement.

As most churches are focussed on loving people and building community, great photos of real people from your church are always powerful. Visitors to your site want to know if your community is the sort of place they can imagine themselves fitting in with. By showing the kind of people who attend your church, you help people picture themselves engaging. This is a first step for many visitors.

Many churches choose to put a picture of their building as their main focus. Whilst I’m sure there are exceptions I generally recommend against this. The mission of the church is not a building, and often these photos are less dynamic and inspiring.

Give people a look into your community, your care for the poor, your passion, your small groups, your warm welcome.

Technology means you no longer need to have an expensive camera to achieve this. Most phones will take great photographs. For those places where you are struggling there are also many great quality and free stock websites available.

Great visuals can help people feel welcome, energised and invited in.

5. Mobile First

Great designs are designed for mobile devices first. The majority of all internet browsing no longer happens on laptops or larger tablets. Most people now view the internet through their phones.

It used to be that websites were designed for desktop displays first and then with the widespread usage of mobiles they would be adapted to also work there.

Now great church websites are designed first for mobile and secondly for laptops and tablets.

This means however clever your design is, it needs to look good in the hands of a visitor. This can be more limiting in terms of what you can fit on screen at once. However it also leads to a simpler and cleaner website.

So your widescreen images need to scale well on a thinner display. Your text needs to be broken up into shorter sections. Your menu needs to become a small button that can expand as needed.

You can’t have small buttons, or difficult to select items. It has to be easy to navigate with a big finger on a small screen!

In today’s world all modern websites need to be responsive – which means they resize to any size of device. From small phones to large tablets and even large TVs.

However, the best church website designs are designed with mobile users in mind first.

Do You Have a Great Design?

If you have an existing church website how did you stack up on these different criteria? For visitors to your church website, there is an intuitive moment where they realise you have a great website. For those involved in building the website there are some things we can pay attention to, that will help them come to that conclusion.

If all this sounds like too much, then you are not alone. Building your own website has never been easier with all the tools available but not everyone has the time or the energy to invest.

That’s why I created Church Site Builder. A platform for churches that makes the process easier. You don’t need to be a technical whizz to pick from an existing template, customise it with your content and launch it.

If you are interested in finding out more check out our full set of features.

If you need help feel free to get in touch.