The Rocket Blog

The 10 Commandments of Church Web Design
By John Waddell and Tonya Thompson on Jan 27, 2016
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First impressions count, there's no denying that. 

But did you know that visitors to your church’s website (or any website, for that matter) only take about 10 seconds to formulate a first impression of the organization based solely on the design, usability, professionalism, and content they see?

That's right — according to marketing research (NN Group) web visitors make a snap judgment about a business, nonprofit or church organization within 10 seconds of accessing its website.  After this initial 10 seconds, and oftentimes before, they’ll leave. In the process, they’ll only read about a quarter of the content there. Seems pretty harsh, huh? 

Does that mean it's time for your church or organization to rethink your online presence?  Maybe. You be the judge. But from our experience, if you practice these web design 10 commandments, you'll have a great headstart to finding the true potential of UX-focused web design for churches: 

1. Sermons should always be a main section on the site

A church’s most marketable asset is its leadership and the inspiration that leadership provides to the congregation and community, so podcasts of sermons should be front and center on your church’s website. In a digital marketing world where useful content is effective content, leaving out this dynamic, compelling part is nothing short of a missed marketing opportunity — a HUGE one, with content that you're already generating! 

Podcasts of sermons and worship services, combined with video of holiday performances and family-friendly events hosted by your church, are a one-two punch of highly effective marketing, particularly to a generation (ahem….Millennials anyone?) that appreciates raw, real experiences over fabricated advertising.

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2. Location info should always be easy to access

At RocketFuel, our web designers found a non-intrusive way to do this with a dropdown header on the websites of our clients indepres.org and stjohnsmidtown.org. There are other ways to make sure the location of your church is easily accessible, but whichever you choose, don’t overlook doing it! Finding a church’s location is one of the primary reasons visitors access church websites, so making this information easily accessible automatically betters your website’s user experience.

3. Worship schedules should be equally easy to access

When prospective guests visit your site, they are highly likely to want to know the times of your services and special events.  Make this information easily accessible from the main page, with ‘service times’ (or something similar) as part of the main navigation. Additionally, it shouldn’t take a visitor more than 1 or 2 clicks to find this information.  

4. The site should be responsive, especially if the church is reaching out to a younger audience

Since mobile access accounts for half of all U.S. digital media consumption, ensuring that your website is responsive (otherwise known as “mobile friendly”) ensures that Millennials — who are spearheading this mobile-friendly environment — see your website the way it’s meant to be seen.

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5. Use imagery from the church itself (i.e. members, events, archives, etc.), rather than using stock imagery

While stock images are usually a better choice than low-quality, blurry shots on a website, an overload of stock images tends to make a website look templated and uninspired. A consumer wants to know the people he or she will be doing business with, and seeing familiar, personable photos vs. stock photography helps a potential client make that leap in the business world.

The same is true of potential visitors to your church, including those looking for a church family to call their home. They want to see the actual faces of your church congregation, and experience media that allows them an "insider's glance" before taking the important step of walking through your church's doors. 

 

6. Events and news should be main sections on the site, depending on the church and how often you have either

Current members will check the church website for events and news listings, as will prospective guests and prospective members.  So essentially, your ‘events and news’ section is great content for both audiences of a church's website.

One great way to highlight these events is in a rotating hero banner carousel. 

 

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7. Let your design reflect the goals and members of your church

What this means is there’s no “one size fits all” solution for web design for churches.  As with any organization, the church’s website design should reflect the goals and audience. If your church’s mission is to attract a younger audience, you’d want a more modern feel to the design of the website. Or if your church is traditional — with a longer, established history — let your design show that.

Simplly put, your design choice attracts a certain audience, so choose your audience before you choose the design. 

8. Ministries should be accessible via the main navigation of the site

Whether current members or prospective guests, your website’s audience will likely be on your church’s website looking for information about ministries available.  If you want them to have a great user experience, make these ministries easily accessible and the content about them easily digestible.  Give your audiences numbers to contact for more information if the content provided doesn’t answer their questions.  Remember...your website is the first impression many prospective members and guests will have of your church.  What will that first impression be? Difficult, unprofessional and confusing? or helpful and professional?  

It’s your choice!

9. Build it with two audiences in mind: attendees and visitors

Evangelical outreach and marketing are part of the core philosophy and mission of many churches.  When an organization’s core mission is to spread a message, that organization will generally look for the best ways to accomplish that mission.

So most churches understand and accept that, at its core, a website is meant to engage the current congregation while also attracting interest from a wider audience.  

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10. Include video, live streaming and podcasts of your services

Finding one’s church family is an important decision, and there is usually a lot of research done in the process. Including video — both past and live-streaming — enhances your church’s website by allowing potential visitors the opportunity to see and hear everything that makes your congregation the unique family that it is.