We’ve previously discussed the significance that logo design plays in a church’s ability to represent Christ effectively. As the foundation of a church’s brand, a good church logo assists the goals and vision of the church it represents in a memorable, consistent and aesthetic way. Another way of communicating this vision is through a church’s website.
A church’s website is its digital “front door.” Let’s face it; if you’ve ever planned to visit a church, you most likely checked out the church online before ever stepping foot in the church’s building. Today, this is the case for the majority of church-goers. Some churches are finally beginning to recognize this reality, that their visitors’ first interaction with them might be online. The bottom line is is that all churches should be aware of how their church is being represented on the web. Unfortunately, many are not. The user experience of many church sites is terrible. No clear vision or mission. Outdated information. Poor design. Confusing navigation. The list goes on. Too many churches have the mindset that simply having a website is enough, never questioning what their website is accomplishing or how it’s communicating.
Although we firmly believe that all churches bear a responsibility to have a website that clearly communicates the truth of Jesus Christ, a website can never give you the full picture of a church’s spiritual health. You can listen to sermons online, read articles by the church’s pastors and even give online donations, but what it comes down to is living in community with the church’s people. Engaging with a church website doesn’t mean you’re fully engaged with that church. A primary objective of a good church website should be getting its users involved with other people. With that in mind, let’s explore a few characteristics that make up a good church website.
1. Clear Vision
It may come as a surprise, but a church’s website isn’t primarily about communicating information, but communicating vision. A vision statement is crucial, but even that is merely information if not lived out. For a church, vision is more than just a statement; it’s a motivated lifestyle shared by a church’s congregation. And in the process of defining a church’s vision, you’ll come to find that a website isn’t the focus, neither is cool functionality, social media or what CMS will be used. It’s about building a strategy, clarifying the direction and goals of the church, and organizing how the website best fits into this established vision. Vision is foundational for an effective church website. This is evident on The Village Church website. Their vision statement—Bringing glory to God by making disciples—is front and center. Out of this statement flows numerous ways in which they are living out this vision: a billboard of current events and stories, an opportunity to download the latest message, and other announcements that detail the life of the church.
2. Engaging Design
We touched on aesthetics when talking about church logos. Websites are no different. The church bears a responsibility to create beautiful things all for the glory of God. If the website is the first interaction someone has with your church, make sure it’s a positive interaction. At the same time, the design of a church’s website won’t be engaging if it doesn’t communicate effectively. Users want information, not flash. Good and engaging design doesn’t distract from the user’s goal.
3. Sound Information Architecture
Users don’t want to be surprised. The hierarchy and flow of information on a church’s website should make sense. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many church websites fail to make this happen. Users don’t want to be surprised, because users often have an objective. Perhaps you’re new to the site and want to find out service times. Good church websites make it easy to find that information quickly in a way that makes sense. James River Assembly is a perfect example of sound information architecture. Their site makes sense to the user.
4. Compelling Calls to Action
Whether it’s signing up for a church newsletter, donating online, or simply giving the church office a call, good church websites identify with their audience. The primary question that church’s must ask is, “Does our website call people to action?” Harvest Bible Chapel uses calls to action very effectively on their homepage with links to videos and recent messages and calls to action, such as "New to Harvest?" and "Check this Out."
5. Authentic Content
Be yourself and be current in accordance with the church’s vision. Your website should be a reflection of your church now, not who the church used to be or who the church wants to be, but who the church is now. Practically speaking, this means staying away from stock photography and generating veritable copy that depicts the actual life and activity of the church. Be authentic and your website will resonate with the people that fit in with your church’s body and vision. The City Church website takes advantage of a full homepage slideshow that uses real photography of the church's events and people. This genuine approach gives the viewer a very real idea of what the church is like.
Church or business, we recognize that there dozens of elements that constitute a good website. We only highlighted five, but what other elements of a good church website would you add to the list? When visiting a church website, what do you like? What don’t you like? Feel free to share with us some examples of good church websites in the comment section below.