As we move into 2016, I want to challenge church web teams to fix a few leaky faucets. These are projects that should have started a long time ago. But if any exist on your website, you need to fix them now. More than ever, your website is viewed as your front door. If it looks outdated and in disrepair, so does your church.
The majority of my articles have a long lifespan. I try to talk about approaches to strategy, tools, and techniques to make your website better. I avoid talking about software, and cautiously make suggestions about what I use. Plus I vow to never make a "How to Set Up WordPress" article. There are plenty of resources out there to help you with that. Yet I will break my rule of timelessness and vent about a few things that you need to change in this new year.
Imagine if someone tried to walk into your church. Then an usher jumped out in front of them. They shouted a few things in your visitor's face. Then they would not move out of the way until your visitor shook their hand. Does this sounds ridiculous? If so, then reconsider using a splash page visitors need to view and click past to get to your website.
Text Welcome Messages
A paragraph of text does not make someone feel welcome. Even if you try to make it sound very nice. The entire experience of the website makes someone feel welcome. Knowing their problems and answering questions well makes someone feel welcome. That block of text is often just viewed as a speed bump to getting to what people actually want. Ditch it for a better use of that space. Feature a story like Kelvin Co did for The Oaks Fellowship church. I apologize to pastors for my next statement. But a testimony or member story connects with visitors needs better than your pastor's speech ever will.
There are two reasons to have audio on your church website. The first is to provide previews of music you are selling. The second is sermon recordings. Just do not automatically play it. The same goes for any videos you host or embed. There are many reasons for this. You never know what someone's speaker volume is. They could be in a public space. Or they are on a mobile device with limited access to data. Regardless of the situation, keep the user in control of their media consumption.
Does your home page still feature a bake sale from three years ago? Hide, archive, or delete that content. Outdated content makes your site look old and neglected. It also gives visitors the notion that your church is not active. Add new material, or get rid of the old. Either way, time sensitive information should be treated with deference.
If you do not accept donations online, you are way behind the curve. I say this because so many younger people simply do not carry cash on themselves. I suffer from this as well. I often do not tithe while at church because I have no cash on me. If you do not make it easy for members to tithe digitally, you are missing out. Digital commerce is happening now. It is not a matter of being part of the future.
If your website is not mobile-friendly, you are alienating a huge percentage of your audience. Notice I did not say potential audience. Nearly 65% of adult Americans own a smartphone. The importance of a good mobile experience has never been more important. First you need to make your content at least displays on a mobile device. Then you need to work on using a responsive layout. Finally, optimize those layouts so that content is prioritized on the screen based on usage scenarios.
If any item on this list spoke to you, start tackling it. You cannot lag behind the curve another year. Take lessons from the movie rental, photography, and newspaper industries. Digital is changing everything. Yes, God's truth is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But how we deliver it is changing in big ways. Get moving, it will likely be a busy 2016!
Photo courtesy of Candace Penney