Your church website is often the first place a new visitor will check out before they attend your church. This means your website is the first impression visitors have of you, and we all know first impressions are important! In fact, it only takes about 20 seconds on your site for a visitor to decide whether or not they’ll keep clicking around to learn more.
We see a lot of church website mistakes, so we’ve rounded up our top five quick church website tips to help you have the best site possible:
1. Use real photos of your church or congregation
Imagine visiting a church’s website and seeing lots of smiling young people in an urban setting. You might guess this church was somewhere in the heart of your city with a hip, trendy congregation. Then, imagine visiting that church only to find out it’s closer to the suburbs and geared more toward established families. You’d probably feel surprised, and maybe even a little misled.
The photos you have on your website are essential in telling the story of your church. Stock images are fine in small quantities, but they don’t showcase the real people in your congregation. When someone visits your website, they want to see who you really are, not a bunch of people that don’t actually go to your church.
Make time to take candid photos around your church, especially on Sundays as people are interacting with one another. It might be worth hiring a professional photographer to come in one Sunday, and to explain to your congregation why you’ve brought someone in. High quality photos will really help give your website polish. As a bonus, photos can also help answer questions many potential visitors will be asking, such as “Will I fit in?” and “What should I wear?”.
2. Post audio or video of your sermons
Having an archive of sermon audio or video gives potential new visitors a chance to figure out if your church is the right fit for them. The quality of sermons or preaching style is the number one value people look for when seeking a new church. You have the chance to ease their concerns from the start by letting them preview your sermons beforehand.
Uploading sermons to your website also helps regular attendees catch up on missed weeks, or listen again to sermons they enjoyed. You can record your sermons as videos and upload them directly to your website, or host them through a third party like Youtube or Vimeo. You can also include audio recordings as an addition or an alternative. Many sermon hosting services, including the service in Outreach Sites, also have podcasting integration — this helps your current members stay up to date on sermons while they’re on the go!
3. Use clear calls to action
Every page on your website should encourage a certain action from visitors. Calls to Action (CTAs) are directional messages like “Learn More,” “Sign Up,” or “Get Involved.” They help website visitors know where to go or what to do next. It’s especially important to have clear CTAs on your homepage. This is likely the first page on your website someone will see, so it’s helpful to provide direction to the visitor to help them find what they need.
Having clear CTAs helps guide your visitors in the right direction. If you’re promoting an upcoming event on your homepage, an inviting “Learn More” button encourages a visitor to click the button to find more information about the event. On the event page, your goal might be to get visitors to register for the event, so you’d use a CTA like “Register” or “Sign Up.” Page by page, CTAs direct the visitor along the path you’d like them to take through your website.
4. Avoid using sliders
The slider is a popular feature on many ministry websites, but sliders get an average of less than 1% of website clicks. Why? Sliders often create a lot of confusion for visitors. They aren’t sure where to click, and are easily overwhelmed by the automatic changes as the slider rotates through images. Even though they’re popular, they aren’t the best way to showcase important information about your ministry.
Instead, try using an eye-catching Hero image, or a large static web banner image, with an inviting call to action. If you have other important information you want visitors to see (like where to sign up for a volunteer team), you can add a button below your Hero directing web visitors to that specific volunteer page.
5. Establish (and stick to) brand standards
Your brand is more than just your church’s name or logo — it’s the story your church is telling. Your brand story is how people come to identify your church, and can include things like your mission, vision, values, and history. A well developed brand story is something visitors and members may not be outwardly aware of, but it’s influencing their experience with your church all the same. Your brand becomes a key identifier of your church inside your church doors, out in your community, and beyond.
Your brand plays a key role in your website design. Good website design is consistent (remember, establish brand standards and stick to them), and can contribute to cohesive outreach campaigns when you use your brand standards to coordinate other outreach materials (i.e. bulletins, banners, social media, postcards, etc). In fact, it’s a great idea to write a guide that outlines your brand standards. You can share this with staff, volunteers, or church members who work on design in any capacity.
Here are a few key elements to consider when developing your brand standards:
- Your logo. How big is it? Are there different variations? What colors are approved?
- Typography. What typefaces or fonts are used in your marketing materials? Which are used for headings and subheadings? Which are used for paragraphs? Most brands will have no more than three fonts — a classic serif, a modern sans serif, and occasionally a script.
- Brand colors. What colors are used in your branding? Identify the HEX codes of each color for easy use on your website. A good rule of thumb is to select two main colors and an accent color.
- Imagery. Do your images have filters or color schemes? Do you have permission to use the images?
- Tone. What is the tone of your writing? Is it informal and friendly, formal and professional, or something else? Determine the tone that fits your church and use it consistently.
If creating a well-designed website feels overwhelming, a templated website builder with custom content might work best. Using a template helps you with the building blocks of site design, which frees you up to customize your website content to match your church’s style.
Your website is always evolving, so it’s important to keep it updated with new content and features that will help tell the story of your church. As you work on your site, keep these church website tips in mind, as well as how you’d like your visitors to navigate through your website. Remember: use real images of your congregation, post archived sermons, have clear CTAs, avoid using sliders, and establish clear brand standards.