More than ever, your church website acts as a key extension of your community.
No longer an afterthought or an “extra” feature, your website may be the very first touchpoint a visitor has with your church. Your site is where people will find important information (service times, location, core beliefs), and where they’ll get a feel for what kind of community you’re creating.
In short, your church site should be an accurate reflection for who you actually are–and offer a pleasant, easy experience for users.
That being said, it’s not always simple to create an awesome church website.
Anyone can sign up for a website platform, fill in a few text boxes, and upload some photos. But it takes strategy, insight, and intentionality to create an effective user experience and communicate who you really are online. There’s a lot of confusion about who churches should target (believers or non-believers?), where to place information (in a menu, or on the homepage), and how to make their site feel like them..
Fortunately, there are strategies, tools, and tips that every church can rely on to create a killer website–and most importantly, create a user experience that draws people in and makes them feel home.
What Should Users Be Able to Do on Your Website?
Before launching into the nitty gritty of what you need to know to build a site, you’ll want to think through what your users are looking for. After all, your website’s core purpose is to serve its visitors, not just to make your church look good online.
Visitors should be able to:
Learn essential information.
When someone visits your site, they are often looking for a) when your church meets, and b) where. That information should be immediately obvious. In other words, it should be “above the fold” (the top segment of a website that’s visible when someone visits a site).
Likewise, your homepage needs to include additional information that’s critical to your identity as a church, such as denomination.
“The home page is important because it’s like the entryway to the house,” says Susanna Fleming, copywriter and marketing expert at the Rock Church in San Diego. “You want a nice, inviting entryway that tells the story of the home and invites people further in.”
“Meet” the staff and community.
Typically, visitors will be looking at your website because they’re considering visiting or joining your community. With that, they’ll want to connect with the leadership, put faces to names, and learn a little bit about who you are and where you’re from.
They’ll also want to see regular church members, or people just like them who have gotten involved in small groups, community outreach, and more.
“Include photos of people in community groups and doing things together out in the community–not just in the sanctuary,” says Fleming.
Register for events.
Next, visitors should be able to register for events and take action to get involved in your church.
Make it simple for visitors who don’t go to your church to sign up for events with an event calendar and registration button (After all, events outside of Sunday service can be a wonderful way for non churchgoers to experience community).
Next, visitors should be able to give on your website. Whether it’s an existing church member who wants to tithe or a one-time visitor making a generous donation, you’ll want to provide visitors a way to make a gift with minimal steps and clicks.
Get customer support.
Finally, make it easy for site visitors to ask for support. Remember that your visitors will range in technical proficiency, and may need support with specific features on your site. Make sure that asking for help is an option on your website, and assign a staff member or leader to offer support.
Steps to Creating a Killer Site
Now that you know what your visitors will be looking for, you’re ready to launch into build mode.
Select a site platform.
There are plenty of easy-to-use platforms out there to help you build a great website. But to build a great church website, you’ll want to keep in mind that your site will have slightly different demands than a run-of-the-mill blog or even ecommerce site.
When shopping around for site building platforms, look for the following:
- Is it easy to use?
- Will it integrate smoothly with your existing online assets and systems?
- Does it offer the diverse functionality needed by church websites?
- Have any churches used it to build a site, and if so, what do the reviews say?
One simple option for churches is Tithe.ly.
Tithe.ly is an all-in-one church management platform that can help you create a website specifically for your church, no coding or technical knowledge necessary.
Create a message and a vision.
One of the most important parts of creating an effective church website is knowing your church mission and vision.
Before you create, write, or design a thing, make sure you know:
- What your core message is;
- And the “key terms” that define your church and communicate your values.
“Your mission and vision should be on your homepage,” says Fleming. “But don’t stop there–make sure they’re also woven throughout the rest of your page, including any content on your discipleship groups or individual ministries.”
If your church focuses on building community, then make that clear right away on your homepage– ”Building Community Together,” for example. Then weave that into the rest of your copy as well. If you have a page about small groups, for example, then talk about building community on that page as well– ”Creating Community Throughout the City.”
Brandi Ibrao, Communications Director at Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, CA, seconds that notion.
“Our primary goal with our website was to make it a place of connection,” says Ibrao. “Even the language we chose for how we communicate specific information–times, location, administrative details–is all rooted in connection.”
Determine your goals.
Next, think about the goals of your website. Are you trying to draw in seekers and non-church goers, or are you communicating primarily to believers and existing members?
“In order to start building a website for any organization, particularly a church, you have to understand who your audience is, not just for the church, but for the website,” says Susanna Fleming of the Rock Church.
“Most churches have two audiences in mind, one for non-believers, and two, for people who are already part of the church. There’s an evangelism component and a discipleship component.”
“It’s hard to do both those things well,” continues Fleming.
To create a more effective website, hone in on what your church wants to focus on, and then build from there.
Next, you’ll want to ask if you’re using your site as a comprehensive resource for remote church goers, or as a starting point for continued communication.
“Our website is the open door, not the final destination,” says Brandi Ibrao of Harvest Rock Church. That being said, Ibrao and her team intentionally avoided including specific information on their website, such as sermon notes.
“What is just enough...and what is too much, so that it just becomes noise?” asks Ibrao.
Be strategic and intentional with the content you choose for your site–and always keep your end goal in mind.
Writing copy (in other words, any and all text on your site) is one of the most important steps you’ll take in crafting your website. What you say to your visitors has the power to immediately capture their attention, or turn them away with one click of a button.
The average website visitor spends less than 6 seconds reading a website’s content. That means you’ve got less than 6 seconds to give page visitors a compelling reason to stay a bit longer.
While appealing graphics and a beautiful color palette will certainly help, your copy is ultimately the most clear and potent communicator of who you are, what you believe in, and what you can offer.
To write effective copy for your church website:
- Write clear, concise phrases and sentences. Be as straightforward as possible; you’re writing website copy, not a doctoral thesis.
- Write for your audience. Tell them how you want to build a relationship with them, and what they can do to take steps forward (In other words, include plenty of calls to action–Sign Up Here, Learn More, Join Us, etc.)
- Read it out loud. Always read everything you write out loud. If it doesn’t sound right out loud, it’s not going to sound right in print.
Finally, have someone not on church staff read over your copy. Is there anything unclear? Or anything missing? Keep refining and tweaking until you feel like your message is clear, straightforward, and you.
Remember, the ultimate goal of copy is not to impress your site visitors, but to make them feel as if they’ve met a new friend–someone who can help them connect with others and connect with God.
Consider user experience.
If you’re diving into the world of website building, you might hear one term thrown around quite a bit–user experience, or UX.
UX refers to the experience that your user has on your website–and it’s one of the most important things to consider when creating your site (if not the most important thing). According to Entrepreneur, 79% of site visitors will leave your site and look for a different one if the content “isn’t optimized” (This is especially key if you’re using your site to attract new visitors).
UX encompasses the total experience from first click to exit. That can include any point of contact or action your user takes on your site, from scrolling down the homepage, to clicking on a menu item, to filling out a form, to making a donation.
UX also includes load times and website responsiveness. If users have to wait too long for images to load, or clicks lead to 404 pages, they’re unlikely to stay on your site...and unlikely to learn very much about your church.
To create an effective UX:
- Think through the journey you’d like visitors to take on your site and then make sure that’s clearly communicated.
- Test for responsiveness on your website. Does your website load well on a Macbook using Safari, a PC using Chrome, an iPhone, and an Android? Make sure your website looks and responds well on all platforms.
- Have a friend or family member test out your website, and observe them in action. Are they behaving as you would expect, or not?
Remember that UX is about more than just creating a workable website; it’s also about creating a user friendly website.
“It should be as easy for an 80 year old grandmother to use your site as it is for a tech-savvy 8 year old,” says Ibrao. “There should be redundancies–for example, menu items at both the top and bottom of the home page for finding life groups and campuses.”
Congratulations! Your site is up and running. The copy is perfect, the site is easy to use, and the graphics and photos look awesome.
Are you finished? Not quite.
Ask many churches about their website, and they’ll mention things that need to be fixed or updated. They’ll also mention site management–or the leader or staff member that’s in charge of taking the reins of making sure your site stays smooth, effective, and user friendly.
That being said, creating a plan for site management is the critical final step of creating a killer church website.
Tithe.ly’s website building tool can help you effectively manage your church website with:
- An easy to use content management system, to make updates fast and simple;
- Great customer support, in the case of glitches or fixes;
- And a low cost; running a website shouldn’t be super expensive!
Ultimately, Tithe.ly can help you not only build a killer church website, but maintain your site–ensuring that your site remains usable, effective, and most importantly, an amazing experience for your visitors.
Build with Tithe.ly
Tithe.ly can help you successfully tackle the task of creating a church website by allowing you to:
- Quickly build a beautiful, usable site without coding…
- Manage site updates…
- And integrate with existing tools and systems.
The best part is that Tithe.ly charges a low cost for build and management–making it a great option for small and large churches alike. To learn more about how to build a site with Tithe.ly, click here.
Check out our blog to see the best website builders in 2021 specifically for churches.