Utilize patterns to create a consistent experience on your church website. Inconsistent designs are more disruptive than a bad design. It forces your users to constantly learn new mechanisms to use the site. Patterns, color palettes, icons and page templates all provide a familiar comfortable experience that keeps your users on your sites and hopefully walking into your church.
Before you start writing the content for each page, consider your global artifacts like headers, navigation, and footers. Use a dry erase board, or markers & paper to sketch out these elements. This prevents you from digging into the details and just some large block items that generally show what and where items will be. This should be done while closely consulting (and possibly modifying) your content strategy document. After a few pages, some consistent patterns will start to emerge. Use these page patterns to help guide the users to expect certain elements in certain spots every time. If your call to action (joining a mailing list, watch a marketing video, etc.) is where they do not have to hunt for it; they will be more likely to click it.
Pick a color palette and stick with it. It should probably align with your church’s branding, if you have one. If not, pick a few key colors, or perhaps use a color palette picker, like Adobe’s Kuler application . Also, try to align the images on your page with this. As I said in my previous post on imagery, if you are going to stage the photo, have your subjects wear colors that complement rather than clash with the site. But remember, keep it consistent. If there is a drastic color change, your users will think they left the site.
Keep a consistent primary navigation scheme on the site. Even if you are unsure if it is correct, avoid changing it on your users. If the Contact Us page is on the far right side of the navigation on the home page, it should be there on the rest of the site. This is a big mistake that can have lasting impacts on your users staying or leaving your site.
These are just a few items that you should keep consistent on your church website. If you are interested in diving deeper, there are plenty of good books out there on the subject. One that I am reading right now is Jared Spool’s Web Anatomy: Interaction Design Frameworks.
Action Item: Review your website for consistency. If you identify any places you can make some adjustments, add them to your prioritized queue of projects and start chipping away. These are often some of the easiest updates to make and will have large impacts to making your site feel more professional.