Your church website is more important than ever. It’s where newcomers and regular parishioners learn how and where to connect with your services. With so many connecting to your church online, your website is now the digital worship space to go to. Making sure your site is in good shape is more important than ever.
Improving or even completely re-imagining your church website is not as difficult a task as you might think. There are many simple improvements you can make today, no matter what platform you are using to host and update your site.
Before you get started, remember to centre your website around your audience, not your leadership. Speak to your parishioners directly and help them find what they are looking for. Your primary lens is to see your website through their eyes, not yours.
1. Focus on Your Welcome Page
The home page is likely the first encounter many newcomers will have with your church website. Making sure it is welcoming and easy to navigate will make it so much easier for people to find exactly what they are looking for. This applies to both visitors and regular parishioners.
2. Define Your Purpose Clearly
If your church website is how people find out who you are, what you believe, and how to connect, you need your home page to set the stage. There are many ways to worship, and how you worship and express your faith is going to be important to a newcomer especially. Present this information up front with words that clearly describe not only your denomination, but how you express your faith. You can do this in a few ways, like describing your community goals as a church and how you care for people.
3. Speak Directly to Your Visitors
Be conversational across your site by speaking directly to your visitor. Speak from the personality and voice of your congregation and use words like “you” and “your” and add words of welcome like “join us” in appropriate places.
4. Keep Your Navigation Simple
The navigation, or menu, of your church website should have clear categories and names. People are often coming to your site to find the basics: how to connect, when is the next service, whether you offer different types of programming (such as youth services), how to watch or listen to archives, and where to send questions.
A simple navigation menu can fit into 5 core categories:
- Welcome (home): Your welcome and about space. The items in this menu help tell your story and your mission and can have a special place for new visitors.
- Connect: This menu could offer options such as different small groups or other ways people can engage as a member of your church’s community beyond the Sunday services. Lead people on a clear path to get involved.
- Services/Events: a listing of all your upcoming public events, online and in person.
- Contact: Your key contact information for your location(s), email and social media and any other ways your church can be reached.
- Media/Blog: A space that houses your archive of digital services as well as any other materials you provide, such as a newsletter, blog, podcast, prayers or devotionals.
5. Make it Easy to Give
Create a visible button that lives at the top of every page so visitors can easily contribute as a one-time or recurring donation. The donation button can directly link to a place for your visitors to tithe or give to a targeted fundraising campaign.
6. Keep a Strong Color Contrast
For your site to work it has to be easy to read. Keeping a strong contrast between your font and background colours is one of the best ways to make sure that your text is readable. This is especially important for accessibility for people who are colour blind. If you’re unsure if your site has a strong enough contrast for readability, there’s a tool called Contrast Checker which will score your colour selections.
7. Use Plain Language Whenever Possible
Another area of focus on is using plain language. Tools like Readable or plugins on sites like WordPress and Wix can give a readability score. This score tells you if you are using difficult language or sentence structures. Keeping it simple will make your church website more inviting to a wider audience with different reading and comprehension levels. Simple language also makes it easier for translation.
8. Break Up Your Text with Headings
Creating headings for your content is important for all web readers. People are now used to having text broken into small parts when we read on a screen (phone, tablet, or laptop) that our eyes have difficulty adjusting and retaining long chunks of text. Keep your paragraphs to one to two sentences and use headers in between as you go down the page.
If you are using H-tags (<h1>, <h2>, in html) you only use the h1 tag at the top of your page, then every other tag should be an h2 or h3, where the h3 directly relates to the h2 above it.
Another important reason to use heading tags is for the visually impaired who use screen readers to navigate through your site. Properly using headings tags makes the content of your website more easily interpreted by screen readers.
9. Use Alt Text on Your Images
Alt text is the alternative text you provide for photos on your site. This gives the visually impaired context for the images you use. This is also a way to increase your website’s SEO (search engine optimisation).
The exception to this rule is when an image is just a design or decoration on the page. These descriptions are unnecessarily distracting for a screen reader.
10. Eliminate Old Content and Features
Keeping a digital archive can be helpful for your records, but if you have content that is outdated or not helpful to your user today, consider storing this content elsewhere. Also check for any retired plugins or widgets that are sitting on your site that have no use. These can slow your load time, which can frustrate visitors (and give you a lower score with your SEO).
11 Create Frequently Asked Questions
Develop a space for answers to frequently asked questions. FAQs often live in the footer of a website so they are easy to find but don’t clutter up the main menu. This can answer common questions about worship, how to connect, how to submit a prayer request, and more.
12. Keep an Updated Events Calendar
With social distancing, having a clear lineup of events for in-person and digital worship will help your congregation connect as a community. Having a booking system that works with your calendar is especially useful for your church, as you strive to keep the guidelines for NHS Test and Trace and ensure you are not overwhelmed with in-person attendees.
Faith Online created a free booking system you can use to manage everything from invitations to events, registration, admissions, and even check-in. It works with your physical and digital worship events and is especially useful as you continue to follow guidelines for NHS Test and Trace.
13. Use a Mobile-Friendly Design
If you are updating your site on a more technical level, you definitely want to make sure your church website is mobile friendly (for smartphone and tablet use) and responsive.
Mobile-friendly sites make it possible for your parishioners to easily get and share details about your church on the go.
Your church website can be your number one communication tool with any current and potential church goers. Minor improvements can make a big difference in how this tool helps grow your community.