I will go ahead and say it. Homepage redesigns are the worst! They are the central focus point for any church. Everyone wants representation there. Every event demands attention. Each of your personas has the possibility of landing here. How do you do the impossible task of designing for everyone? My suggestion is to proceed with patience and planning. Here are my tips on the dreaded homepage update.
Before I start, let me say that I recently (summer 2018) updated the homepage for the company I work for. We had shifted part of the business to a separate website. So it was my job to create the new homepage with a narrower and renewed focus. The design process took over four months to complete. But in the end, we had great documentation and a new approach to solving our customers’ problems.
Determine Your Priorities
At my company, this meant interviewing leadership. For you, it means your pastors, deacons, and other decision-makers. I asked about a few key areas that I felt would guide the direction of the website. Here is a high-level overview of the questions I asked, and how they can apply to your church.
Who are we?
This was a question about voice and tone, a topic I before covered on this blog. The answer to this determines what is most prominently featured on your homepage.
What is our value proposition?
This may not seem like it pertains to churches. Yet it is still part of your web strategy. Who are you trying to reach and how? What does your church offer that others may not? Is there a calling your church is pulled toward helping? What specific problems do you specialize in solving? It may be difficult in your city to stand out, but you must.
Where are your growth and sustainability markets?
Here I touch on two key personas for your church. Research those people groups and create ways to inform and entice them. This often means existing and prospective church members. What content will draw new members in? Just do not forget about your seasoned member that wants a detailed schedule of upcoming events.
Design for your Priorities
There are many designs and layouts to accommodate your goals. A Google image search for “homepage designs ideas” will give you plenty of material to work with. Your platform of choice (WordPress, SquareSpace, etc.) all have plenty of templates to choose from. The trick is finding one that helps you market to all your goals. You might be a new church plant focused on new member growth more than anything. Or you may be a church focusing on discipleship. Regardless of your focus, there are options to meet your needs. Focus on the spaces for content, as well as the layout. I would suggest a modular design that allows for different size calls to action.
Pitch the Design
You will likely not be able to settle on one distinct design. This is when you create mock-ups of those designs and show them to leadership. The key is to not make it about the aesthetics. You need to describe the problem you want to solve, and how that design does it. Guide the discussion away from color preferences. This is like shopping for a new house based on the paint colors in the rooms. Find out what works best, then customize it to fit your branding.
Create a Maintenance Calendar
This is the most important piece of the whole formula. Updating your homepage is great. Keeping it up to date with fresh content is an eternal struggle! This means figuring out different seasons to market to. What you pitch around major holidays differs from what you show right after one. Summer content differs from winter content. If you are a more traditional church, the liturgical calendar is very important. Create your calendar for making updates. Give your team plenty of time to gather and create content. Determine who to involve and hold your first meeting. I suggest at least a month of preparation. I talked about this in a previous article on maintenance calendars as well.
Start with, and focus on the first step of this process. Knowing those details helps you with so many other projects. It is a foundation you should have, but are often too busy to do. The biggest reason is that it helps with making decisions. We want the projects that most benefit us. Yet if the goal of your church is “A”, then the argument for “B” takes a back seat. That does not mean you do not do “B”, it means it gets fewer resources and attention. If everything is a priority, then nothing is. Help guide your church in finding its niche audience and serve them. Of course, start with your homepage content.
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