This article has no tricks or shortcuts to fix a broken website. What it has is a method for fixing the most common problems over the coming months. You will still need to publish and update content. These steps make great side projects. So with regular effort, you will overcome your looming challenge and have a fantastic church website!
Web design trends change on a regular basis. Certain visual treatments go out of favor because they were a failed experiment. Designers try new things to stand out in the crowd. When users have difficulty using those designs, we scrap it and move on to the next thing. Yet no matter what is currently in vogue, we can easily identify what is out. Even if you have great content, a dated design sends a bad message to visitors. My suggestion is to move to a content management system, such as WordPress. There are many design themes you can use to give your website a quick facelift.
While web designs change regularly and often, page layouts have remained fairly stable. Logo and navigation stay at the top. A block of primary content takes center stage. Secondary and tertiary content is in a side column or footer area. A few formulas work well for nearly every page of your website. The problem is that when you change formulas so often, you confuse your users. This includes visual elements as well, such as colors, logos, and icons. Step through your website one page at a time. Simplify the number of layouts. Create one color palette to unify your visuals. The nice thing is this is an easy project to do in small chunks. Your site is already in disarray, so work on it one piece at a time.
Voice and Tone
The next piece of this are the words on your website. As with the previous project, this is another you can release over a series of weeks. Rewriting your content is not going to be easy or fun. But your readers will appreciate it. I will warn you that you should outline what your voice and tone should be before starting this work. As you progress, change how much you write as well as what you write. Simplify your language. A great tool to help is the Hemingway App. It is the tool I use to keep my message as concise as possible.
All the above changes will do you no good without regular updates. There are many types of content you should publish. But the most common are news updates and event landing pages. These inform your website visitors that your church is alive and active. We all know you should post content to social media. Yet many of those posts should include links back to your website content. Create a publishing schedule to keep you on track. Add or remove items as your ministry needs change.
Take Out the Trash
The hardest part of wrapping up a new design is what to do with the pieces that do not fit anymore. I offered some suggestions in my article about stale content. Use your best judgement in dealing with this problem. Just know that it is OK to find yourself in this spot. And it is perfectly acceptable to remove content from your website.
If you, or someone you know is taking over a “broken” website; offer these suggestions. As I mentioned, it will take several months to make major progress. Yet after a few changes, your church should begin to notice. Hopefully a few more volunteers or more funding will come your way. Keep the momentum all the way to the end. When you think you are done, review your website analytics to see how improvements have helped. Then tackle the areas it did not!
Photo courtesy of Ifel Barrenechea