The Devil’s in the Details: How Church Websites Can Go Wrong

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My favorite hobby is architectural photography, especially church architecture. In the past few years, I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands, of church websites. For every one that’s impressed me, I see a dozen that range from blah to awful. The sheer number of badly designed church websites has had me pondering one question. Why?

So, am I going to tell you why? Maybe I will if I ever figure it out. The whole thing makes absolutely no sense to me. I will, however, offer a few bits of advice for avoiding common pitfalls.

First and Foremost: HAVE A WEBSITE!

That should be a given in this day and age, but it isn’t. I’m constantly amazed at how many parishes and congregations have no web presence at all. Come on, people. Get with the program. It’s not as complicated nor as expensive as you think. If all else fails, make it a project for your youth group. They already know a fair amount about computers and it’ll keep them out of mischief.

Know Your Target Audience

You’re probably not making a website to tell the people who are in the pews, week after week, what’s going on. They already know what’s going on. It’s the ones you only see at Christmas and Easter, and even more, the ones you’ve never seen who need your website. The former are the ones who need to keep up on the latest news, and hopefully be told the place won’t be struck by lightning if they show up four times a year instead of two. Make sure the website is updated regularly with your bulletins or newsletters. Don’t just let it sit untended for months at a time. As for the people you’ve never met, I’ll deal with them later next.

A Website is for Outreach

Nowadays, if someone’s new to town or, for whatever reason, is looking for a church, they’re not likely to look in the Yellow Pages. They’ll probably use Google. Be ready for them. A website is the perfect way to show them why they should drop in. Make sure you give them all the basic information and, above all…..

Don’t Hide!

This is my pet peeve where church websites are concerned. When I’m planning a visit to a town, I look for churches to photograph. You’d be amazed how often I have to go through three or four pages of a site before finding a vital piece of information; the address. I realize you all want to tell everyone how warmly they’ll be welcomed, but don’t neglect to tell them, up front, where you are. That goes along with my final point. You probably want to emphasize that “a church isn’t a building, it’s people.” That’s fine. But please try to put a picture of your building on your website. It won’t just benefit architecture fanatics, like me. Whether monumental or simple, church buildings are almost always recognizable. Having a picture on the site makes it more likely that someone who’s new in town will say “I’ve seen that church”, instead of “now, which one is that?” Think about it.

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