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How to make the most of your church websitecomment (0)

September 29, 2011

By Kristen Hiller

It’s no secret printed Yellow Pages are quickly becoming a thing of the past. In fact, an article published by Simba Information in April noted that the Yellow Pages market actually shrank by 25.2 percent over the last seven years and is only expected to stabilize in 2013 as the organization continues to adapt new digital forms.

The fact of the matter is whether we’re using laptops, desktops or mobile devices, our first stop for information is the Internet. So whether we’re trying to sell a product or offer the gospel, we need to be present where people are searching. As a web designer for ministries and nonprofit organizations, I’ve come up with four simple tips for church websites.

1. Provide relevant content. While your location and service times are critical and should be prominent on your site, don’t shy away from offering more.

• Consider welcoming guests with a video message from your pastor. A personalized welcome message gives visitors a feel for your church, provides them with information about your ministry and lets them know you care enough to address them directly. You also can cut back on costs and expand your networks by hosting your video with YouTube or Vimeo. These sites have not only perfected the art of streaming video on the web but they also offer exposure to millions of viewers who may not typically visit your site. They also provide a simple embed code to seamlessly integrate your published videos into your own web pages.

• Offer your messages online. Maybe a volunteer in your church missed the worship service because he or she was serving in another capacity on a given Sunday. Maybe a visitor wants to hear more. Whatever the reason, people look for your sermons. So take advantage of the opportunity you have to make them immediately available.  
• Provide profiles of the missionaries your church supports. Your website is a great place to connect churchgoers to the international and local missionaries you support. Provide your members with an opportunity to connect with these missionaries directly by providing contact and bio information, as well as links to missionary blogs.

2. Keep it simple. In 2000, Steve Krug came out with an interesting read called “Don’t Make Me Think!” The book is based on the premise that it is not the end user’s responsibility to figure out how to navigate your website. Rather it’s the designer’s responsibility to make the site so intuitive that the user shouldn’t have to think to find the information he or she is looking for. More than a decade later, this concept is just as valuable as ever before. If site visitors have to spend time searching for your service times, then you may lose them before they ever reach the church doors. Make sure the most important information is front and center and your navigation is clean and intuitive.

3. Keep it current. Are you using an events calendar? Not only could this information boost attendance at events and cut down your administrative staff’s time fielding calls but an up-to-date events calendar also shows visitors your church is alive and active.

If your calendar has not been updated in a few months, then I would recommend removing it from your site altogether. If you leave your site unattended and fail to provide guests with pertinent information, then they’ll begin to wonder if the church simply does not have any new events or, worse, why it is not making use of a valuable resource. Furthermore leaving your site static for long periods of time will ultimately hurt your rankings in search engines.

4. Be sociable. By incorporating social networking components on your site, you allow church members to participate in the conversation and encourage one another. Setting up a church Facebook page is also a great way to reach those who don’t regularly attend. With more than 750 million active users on Facebook alone, your presence on this network gives you an opportunity to rub shoulders with those who may never attend your church as a result of the “likes” and status updates of those who do.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Kristen Hiller is a web designer at ServanTek Inc. in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. ServanTek aims to empower ministries and nonprofit organizations through the effective use of technology. For more information, visit www.servantek.org.

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