Series: Improving your church website
Last month we looked at one great website. Now, let's look at hundreds!
Almost every month in the short life of this column, I've said that an effective way to learn how to make a great church website is to look at great church websites. "Copying is the highest form of flattery," as they say.
Of course, you have to find those great sites. Not always easy.
Well, that just got easier! Thanks to Nick at The Rock for pointing us to a site called (ta da!) Great Church Websites. David Gillaspey is the president and founder of this not-for-profit based in Oregon. Their mission is the same as this column: To help churches fulfill the Great Commission through excellence in their Internet ministries.
Gillaspey is accomplishing that with a robust site full of tips and advice, articles, software and book reviews, a forum for church webmasters, links to resources, and, of course, a list of great church websites - over 400 of them! Check it out the site.
You can search for these great sites right from his homepage. Just choose a state and you'll get a list of them (if David has reviewed that state's church sites). You can even make comments about them as well! (Pretty cool.)
His links to articles and other resources is exceptional--a literal treasure trove if you're doing ministry on the Internet (and if your church has a website, it is!). But one of his most helpful resources is his article "Top 10 Church Website Design Tips." David allowed me to share some of the wisdom with you. (You can get all 10 tips on his site.)
#2 - Don't include a splash screen or an intro page on your site. (That is, don't have a page that requires or allows visitors to "Enter" or "Skip intro."): Splash screens and intro pages are outdated techniques that waste bandwidth and waste user mouse clicks. (The most important content on your site should be reachable in three mouse clicks or less.)
#4 - Don't use patterned page backgrounds (tiled backgrounds), especially, strongly or obviously patterned backgrounds: Patterned backgrounds are an outdated technique that makes your site look dated.
#5 - Don't use animated gifs, rainbow colors or visitor counters on your site: All three are outdated techniques that make your site look dated.
#6 - Don't put a photo of your church building on the home page: Two reasons: 1) photos of people are by nature more interesting than photos of buildings (even scenic photos are more interesting than building photos); 2) a church is a body of people meeting together in community - not a building. Therefore, use photos of people on your home page, not building photos.
#7 - Don't fill your home page with ads for ministries or church events (and especially, don't allow ads for secular products): Advertise your ministries and special events to people who already attend your church, by putting ads in your worship folder or putting them on your projected PowerPoint announcements. Save the valuable "real estate" of your home page for communicating with people who have yet to enter though the doors of your church. (I'm not saying don't use any ads; just use them sparingly and wisely.)
#8: Include on your home page the following essential information (in easy to find locations):
church address (including city and state)
weekend service times (with location or link to information about location)
email link to webmaster
Why make your visitors hunt all over your website for this information? The best church websites put this information in plain sight on their home page, with the exception of the email link. (Some churches hold services in rented facilities, e.g., schools. Obviously, if that's the case, the website must make this clear. But this is something that all church websites seem to get right.)
The email link to the webmaster is to enable visitors to report problems. You wouldn't believe how few church websites include this. This link (when present) generally is put at the bottom of the home page in small type. I think that's fine, because people know to look for it there.
His last two tips relate to accessibility, or how easy can disabled folks use your site. Many churches may be friendly to the disabled, but aren't on their sites. David has provided excellent tips of making your site easy for everybody to use. I highly recommend you spend some time in this section of his site. And then spend time evaluating your own site on these issues.
Studying the resources on this site can play a big part in making your church's website more effective in reaching non-churched folks seeking a home to worship and fellowship.
[Editor's Note: This article was originally published January 2005.]
Mike Atkinson is the president/founder of uneekNet(helping your organization succeed on the Internet), and runs Mikey's Funnies, a daily clean humor email list.