The web development world has gone through an enormous amount of change in the last decade, and sadly many church websites seem to be living in the past.
Here are 7 signs that your church website might be two thousand and late.
1. Drop down menus to get to the content
Back in 2005, we loved drop-down menus. They were a great way to squeeze in those extra pages without cluttering up the menu. They solved the problem of churches having 20 items in their main site navigation. Now they could nest pages under headings in the navigation and keep things well organized.
And that worked great until mobile browsing came along.
When people view websites on a mobile phone, there is no equivalent to hovering your mouse over a menu item. This made all those pages nested in a menu item you have to hover over impossible to reach.
While a modern site can have drop-down menus, all content must be accessible on a mobile device.
2. Separate page for everything
There was a time when we believed the more pages the better. Did a ministry meet at some point in the last 36 months? If so, then give them a page on the church website.
As this trend continued church websites got bigger. As they got bigger the really important content like the service times, youth, and children’s ministries began to stand out less and less.
One thing we have learned over the years is that while all ministries are important, not all of them should have equal weight on the website.
We need to keep the main thing, the main thing. Ask yourself what a visitor to the site needs to see. If the content is not something that they need to see, then be ruthless. Just as a great sermon need not be long, and great website need not have 30 pages.
This used to be the go-to tool to make things move on a website. This drew attention and helped us tell better stories online. A site with a flash element was a great way communicate that your church was up with the times and a great place to visit this Sunday.
Today, that same flash that dominated the internet for a decade has gone the way of the cassette tape. While its capabilities are still unmatched, it is simply not compatible with too many mobile devices to be used.
Too often that great first impression you were hoping to make will just be a gray box telling your users to install flash.
4. Landing page before you get to the site
Up until this point, the items in this list served a purpose at one point. Making your visitors go to a landing page before they went to your site should never have been a thing.
The thought was if we had a page that was dedicated to only cool design elements with a link to enter the church website, we could make an even stronger first impression.
The reality was that most people would locate the “Enter Site” button before the page even loaded, and all you really accomplished was wasting a few seconds of their time.
People go to websites for information. The websites primary job is to deliver information. It is important to engage people while they receive that information, but never make the mistake of thinking that people go to your site for the first time in order to be engaged, impressed or entertained.
5. Background music
Who among us has never been scared by music playing way too loud online when you least expect it. Background music on a church website has always been a bad idea.
We understand that you want to give people an idea of the kind of music they might experience if they visit your church this Sunday, but there has to be a better way. And there is.
When you can pull it off well, video of your services are a great addition to any site. If you can’t do that with excellence, then let the photography tell the story of what to expect.
And under no circumstances should anything on your site auto-play. That is a sure way to annoy your visitors.
6. Church website is left justified
Any designer will tell you that should almost always be left justified. That is the truth.
But your entire website should not be on the left-hand side of the screen. That is something from the prehistoric web days. Even the Space Jam website is centered on the screen. (Yes, I am referring to the original Space Jam website, lying in state, the way it was when the movie was released).
While multiple lines of text should almost always be left justified, the body of the website should be in the middle of the screen.
7. Content is not full screen
We used to have a rule in designing websites where we would try to keep the entire site “above the fold”, a term borrowed from the newspaper industry. Rather than bury the lead, newspapers kept the most important parts of a story above the spot where the newspaper folded.
In web design that meant making everything visible to the user without having to scroll.
Today, scrolling has become much more acceptable due to the rise in mobile phone usage. People scroll for days on social media apps and that has become a much more intuitive way to browse a website.
The days of narrow columns in the middle of the screen are also over. Today with 1080p screens being the standard, a site should take advantage of all that real estate. Full-screen images and even video are the way to go.
How does your church website measure up?
Does your site break any of the rules above? Did we miss any signs that your site may be past its prime?
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Ha ha! I can’t believe how many of these sites I still come across. There are still so many with background music that is so distracted or really poor in quality. I must say that I am seeing less flash now but still do from time to time. I did see a landing page before entering into the site with an explosion and chains breaking off not too long ago LOL.
Flash + Landing Pages = Scaring away visitors. 🙂
Its amazing how many websites are out of date! Most of our people have visited our website way before visiting our building. Its the new front door!
You are dead on Cody. It is almost always a visitors first impression.