Church Website Mistakes

... common design mistakes

The most frequently made mistakes in the design of church websites are given here. Don't repeat them on your site... please!

1. Starting with the church building
Many church websites begin the homepage with a history of the church building. This approach shows the webmaster has forgotten that the Church is the people, not the building. So don't begin the website with "St Hilda's was built from local stock red brick in 1908".

In fact, unless your church building is a significant attraction to visitors, such as Canterbury Cathedral, there is probably little reason to have much, if any, historical information about it on the website. If there is something that you want to include, move it into a "Church Building" section. You may wish to include a picture of your church building on your site to help visitors recognise that they have come to the right place. Exceptions are where your church building provides facilities to the community - in which case you may wish to include information about these and rental costs etc.

2. Incomprehensible statement of belief
If your denomination or network has a 'Statement of Faith' or 'Doctrinal Basis' then you may be tempted to include it on your website. However, these documents are rarely written with non-churchgoers in mind, and are unlikely to help many of your visitors find out what the church believes.

A better way is to create a "What we believe" page which contains a simple explanation, avoiding Christian jargon, of what it means to be a Christian. Then, if you still want to include a more formal statement of belief, simply provide a link to the relevant page on your denomination's website.

3. Out of date content
It is a good idea to include news of forthcoming events and service details. But it isn't sensible to keep displaying this on the website after the date has past. Keeping your website up-to-date is truly easy with Church123.

4. Special effects
Some 'cool' features of websites, such as day-glow flashing text, 'hilarious' whizzy animations or innovative menu systems, are just irritating. It has been shown that most visitors ignore all these special effects, and will leave your site if they can't find what they want quickly.

5. Long download times
Websites filled with graphics may look appealing when you view them on your own computer, but when users access them they can take ages to download. Although more and more people are getting fast (broadband) Internet connections many people still use slow modems. Remember, most people won't hang around on a slow website.

So, if you want people to find out more about your church then make sure that the website runs quickly. The best way to do this is to avoid too many graphics. Photos are fine, and they help to show who you are, but if you have lots then place them on a special "pictures" page so that people can choose whether or not to view them.

The Church123 system automatically optimises images you include so they are appropriate for use on the Internet. If you are not using Church123 please learn about the different image formats, resizing and how to compress images before considering building a church website.

6. Ugly site design
There is a common misconception that a ‘techie computer person’ or someone with a degree in computer science is the ideal person to make a church website. This is so often far from the truth. Making a good website requires a range of skills including artistic design, communications and technical abilities. In truth few people have all these, which is why there are so many truly ugly church websites. If you don’t have someone with a flair for artistic design to work alongside your technical people then you may come unstuck. Ugly site design can be solved by using a template-driven site development system (as long as they have a good range of templates and one suitable for your church).

7. Homebrew navigation systems
For some reason technical people often think it would be really clever to do something no one else has ever done before. Once in a blue moon this new idea is fantastic, but more than likely the reason that it hasn’t been done is actually because it doesn’t work well.

Why make things complicated for your visitors by forcing them to work out how to use some unique menu system? A simple menu on the left hand side or along the top is standard. We strongly recommend sticking to this convention. Don’t make things difficult for your visitors, if they can’t quickly find what they are looking for it is likely they will leave your site.

Church123's templates automatically generate menus that are easy to navigate – they are also accessible to visitors using systems such as Braille readers (for the visually impaired).

 

For more tips, see the Internet Evangelism Day site.