User Experience in Church Communications

User Experience in Church Communications

Very recently, I was privileged to attend an event at the offices of Greenwood Campbell – a fantastic local agency who really care about getting to know their users!

The session, entitled ‘Get UX Savvy’ was led by Rebecca Hugo, and provided some great reminders and insights about UX, and its importance in communications.

How, you may ask, is this relevant to church communications?

Let’s start at the beginning.

What is UX?

Good question. UX is something that is often misunderstood.

The term stands for User Experience. Here is a helpful definition from Jakob Nielsen

User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.

Jakob Nielsen

UX is all about the journey taken by a person who interacts with your church. It will therefore include all sorts of factors that we often think about with church communications: your branding, your voice, your website design, and more.

Nielsen UX quote - ChurchTrain

UX includes something called UI, which means User Interface. You could be forgiven for confusing these similar acronyms!

UI is part of website and app design, and it relates to the way a user interacts with the product. UI can be thought of as the tool that enables users to do something on your website.

Therefore, UI will clearly have a huge part to play when considering User Experience, but hopefully we’re already getting a sense that UX is about much more than your church website.

UX thinking impacts all areas of your church communications.

The Hotel Experience

Rebecca shared a useful example of a hotel website, asking what is it about the site that helps us to trust its message? There will be lots of contributing factors, such as font, colours, branding, tone of voice, layout etc.

Now, think about this same hotel as you walk through its front doors, entering the reception area for the first time. How do you judge the hotel differently now?

Colours and branding may still come into play, but there are also many more elements: the decor, the temperature, the smell, the friendliness of the staff, the (hopefully smooth) experience of checking in to your room.

These two experiences of the website and the reception are worlds apart in some senses, with their design and makeup coming from completely different disciplines. Yet, at the same time, they both impact your experience of the hotel.

Thinking in this joined-up way can have a real impact on how people perceive who we are.

What is it, then, that ties all of these different elements and experiences together?

Start with ‘Why’

Rebecca pointed us to Simon Sinek who looks into the idea of why we do things.

The ‘why’ is the driving force, and it’s what sets us apart.

Whatever your view on church branding, it’s clear that in our culture, you need to ‘stand out’ to be heard.

We may feel uncomfortable asking ‘what makes us different’ from the church down the road, as it’s not a competition! On the other hand, perhaps we don’t spend enough time thinking about this question in relation to the countless other brands and products that our audience interacts with every day.

In relation to this, I’m reminded of the importance of a clear vision for our churches. This vision needs to be running through everything we do – whether our website or a church service on Sunday. As Rebecca reminds us, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.

Experience Maps

During the workshop, we looked at a few different tools for mapping out the journey our users take when experiencing our church. Perhaps it would be a helpful exercise for your church’s comms team to use an Experience Map in this way.

User Experience Map - ChurchTrain

Don’t worry if yours isn’t this fancy – start simple!

This will enable you to see how people first come into contact with the church, and how their journey progresses from there. It will reveal the parts of the experience inside your control, as well as those that you don’t have as much influence over, for example church directories, or word of mouth referrals.

We can also use this exercise to consider how our brand applies across this journey – each small interaction can be considered a touchpoint , where a user experiences something of your brand, however small. We can consider how our vision impacts our brand in each of these interactions.

Bringing things back to your church website – how can UX testing help here?

First of all, don’t be put off by the idea of testing – it can be done quickly and cheaply. Rebecca used an example of grabbing someone who isn’t familiar with your site to give you some instant feedback. This will give you insight that you didn’t have before – remember, it’s likely that you are not your user. We mustn’t fall into the trap of assuming that our priorities are the same as everyone who we want to use our site!

User Experience Statistics - ChurchTrain

Click for ’30 Eye-Opening UX Statistics’

We have many tools at our disposal in the age of content marketing – Google Analytics would seem a good place to start. By collecting data from those who use our site (which website referred them to us, which pages have they visited etc.) we can notice trends that can inform our future design decisions.

To take things one step further, services like Hotjar and Lucky Orange give us the ability to watch users interacting with our website in real time! These Live Insight Reviews can show us exactly what our users are doing – is it what we’d hoped? If not, why not.

The mantra of the UX designer is ‘test little and often’. These days, we really have no excuse not to! From this testing, we can make incremental changes that, hopefully, start to bring about big results, fulfilling the vision that drives our site design from the beginning.

So there you have it, a whole bunch of UX thinking that you can start to put into practice. Don’t be daunted, give it a go, and see what you can learn about your user!

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