Time for another highly practical blog post – this time from a brilliant guest writer, thinking about your church website redesign!
James writes below about the process behind Globe’s recent church website redesign project. Why not take a look at their site after reading, to see the results!
Your Church Website Redesign
Where to start?!
Getting to know you
As a church team, you’ve been talking about it for a while… that old, dated website that you’ve had so for so long has got to the stage of embarrassment. You’ve even stopped telling people that it exists. When you load it up, well, it just looks like something from the ’90s – yet here we are in 2018 and everyone else has their fancy new websites. It’s time for you to update, to bring your church up to date.
Now, the immediate impulse is to just just update that WordPress template, or move all the content that’s currently there into a new SquareSpace account. Everything will look new, pretty and modern; the job will be done.
Don’t do it! At least not as the first step…
Putting your old content in to a new layout may feel as if you’ve made something happen really quickly, but you’ve jumped the gun. You haven’t asked yourself if it will meet the needs of the people who use the website? Or will it serve the purpose that the website exists for in the first place? Actually, do you know the purpose the church website exists to serve?
I want to encourage before you start building something… start talking about it. Not just to the rest of your team, you probably do that enough already, but to the people who are in and around the church, and the people that you would like to see coming into your church. The church website isn’t for you; it’s for them. So you have to find out what they need from it.
When we undertook our own church website redesign project, there were a whole group of people that I started to talking to. This encompassed a range of people who come to the church already, not just one demographic within the church. I started to ask them questions like ‘How did you first hear about this church?‘ and ‘How would you describe it to a friend?‘.
I asked other questions, too, like ‘If you were moving away from this city and were looking for a new church, how would you find one?‘, and ‘What is the information that you would need to make an informed decision?‘
Even more importantly, I asked these kinds of questions to people who had nothing to do with the church, who were just walking by.
‘Have you ever been into this church?‘, ‘Do you know anything about it?‘. All of these questions trying to work out people’s perception of the church; what they knew, what they didn’t know, or what they would want to know before coming along.
As we sat down and read back through the interview responses, we saw an emerging set of three main audiences, who all had a different set of needs.
These audiences might be similar to your church; but you need to do the research for yourself (example questions are at the bottom of this post) so that you can build up a list like this:
The invited friend
An invited friend is probably not a Christian: they don’t know much about Christianity at all, but they have been invited in by someone who goes along. Now, before they come, they want to see what to expect, to double-check details like how to get there, what time the service starts, etc.
These are people who are looking for a church in the area, but are likely Christians already.
On one hand, they just need the basic information of when and where your church is, and what to expect when they come along on a Sunday, just like the invited friend.
On the other hand, they may want to know further information, such as what the church believes, what’s going on midweek, and which denomination or network the church is a part of.
These people tend not to have come just from a random search on the web, instead they will have been recommended by word of mouth from a friend or someone else they trust.
The church member usually knows everything that the church seeker needs to know, in fact they rarely, if ever, visit the church website.
Some exceptions to this: your attendees may visit the website to listen back to the sermon they missed last week, or to check the location for the prayer meeting this week. You may also have a ‘news’ section with some updates about church life. In any case, your churchgoers can usually find this information in a number of places in church or online, so it’s not of primary importance to the website design.
Building for the need
With these audiences firmly in our mind we can start looking at what the church website redesign needs to contain. This goes for content as much as for aesthetics.
Critically, we can use these audiences to consider what information needs to be given the highest visibility.
Looking at the audiences in our example, it is already obvious that first and foremost people need to know when and where the church meets. If that is the highest priority for our audiences we need to put that as one of the first things that they see on the website.
Starting to think about your audience, and what they need, will help to make your website effective, easy to use, and will encourage people to come in to your church.
Summary of the questions we asked:
For people who were already part of the church
- How and where did you first hear about the church?
- How would you describe the church to a friend?
- What do you think makes the church different from the other churches that you have been to?
- How would you describe it to someone who wasn’t a Christian?
- If you were moving to another town or city, how would you go about finding a new church?
- How do you find out what is going on in the life of the church?
- How do you think that the church could communicate with you better?
For people who were not a part of the church
- Have you heard of this church? How/where did you hear about it?
- How might you describe it to a friend from what you know about it?
- If you were thinking about coming along how would you find out more about it?
- Have you visited the church website? What did you use it for?
So there you have it – ask questions, define your audience, and prioritise your messages! Thanks for your tips, James!
James Doc (jamesdoc.com) works for The Globe Church, a plant in central London, with the made up job title of Digital Ministry Developer. He is focused on looking at how church ministry can be assisted by digital tools. He also co-leads Kingdom Code, a group for Christians who work in the world of technology. You can find him on Twitter; @jamesdoc.