The key to having a great church website is not to have a multitude of features, but the ability to highlight the right set of website features to your visitors. Creating something complex is easy. Something simple with the right experience is extraordinarily difficult. In this article I will outline some steps to take to simplify your website while crafting the right experience your visitors want.
At its peak, Word Perfect had 1,700+ features. A small upstart in Washington, Microsoft, created Word for DOS with only 70 features. The difference between these two-word processing applications is that Word had the correct features, not all of them. This is how the iPhone, despite having fewer features than Android devices, but having a better experience, can be the leading smartphone on the market. And nobody can deny the simplicity that Google brought to the space when compared to Alta Vista and Yahoo. A good experience trumps features. So how can your church website attain this?
What are the strategic objectives your church has their eyes set on? You might be growing student ministry, moving to go multi-site, and attempting to bolster young adult attendance. Regardless, the one or two strategic objectives should drive everything on your website. That is not to say that other items are ignored. You can have other content on your site, but be sure to always try to direct it toward supporting those objectives that are most important.
Who are you trying to reach? If you base all of your decisions off of your own personal agendas, you are making a website for you, not your customers. What does your customer care about the most? Are they looking for what your church believes in, what ministries you have to offer, or how active you are? All of these should be considered from your users' perspective, not your own. With the help of well crafted personas, you can answer these questions more effectively.
Are you testing to see if your website measures up to your users' expectations? By examining how your website holds up to the common user, you expose the gaps you may have missed on your own. Ask new congregation members to use your website and document what their questions are. Better yet, ask an unchurched, non-member to use the site. See what their objections and unanswered questions are, and what they still want to know after viewing the site.
Realize that the website features you want your church to have might be different than what your users have in mind. Examine what users want and see what content you should update, and possibly what new content you should be created. Understand that the features and content you originally thought should exist on your site, may not be what the final result may be. Set aside your personal feeling, and let the information your tests and personas give you guide your actions. Finally, seek prayer and Godly counsel as you prepare these updates and channel users to see the features your church most desperately wants to highlight.