It’s hard to be really successful when you’re disorganized.
Whether it’s at work or at home (or both!), life can get really messy really fast if your ducks just aren’t in a row. You may lose track of time, forget when to drive the kids to practice, and wind up eating cereal for dinner.
And––without an organized plan-of-action––you might get to the end of the day only to find a list of missed appointments, soggy laundry, and an inbox full of “urgent” messages.
Your church website works the same way. If it’s a jumbled mess, it’s hard for your visitors to find what they need. If you church has a lot of content, organizing it all on your website can get overwhelming. And if you have a jumbled system or no system at all, your mission and message can get lost in the inner-workings of your website!
Today, we’re going to help you make sure your church website is a tool box, not a junk drawer.
With a content audit and a sitemap, you’ll be able to determine exactly which pages you need. A clear, well-planned site map allows you to be as concise and relevant as possible.
Before we really dive in here, pull up the full size version of this photo for an idea of what your visual sitemap could look like when you’re done with it! It will be a great reference while you read through the points below. You don’t need to make a fancy graphic like this one, but you should take the time to plan your navigation menu.
Finding a Page's Purpose
Every page of your website should have a clear, concise reason to exist. You shouldn’t be repeating yourself or duplicating content on multiple pages. Get to know your content so you can highlight the most important parts and delete old pages still hanging around. Think about the “next steps” you want the visitor to take on each and every page. The “purpose” of each page is what you want your reader to do next: visit, read more, give, volunteer, etc. Think about what information is on the page and how that is connected to the rest of the content on your website.
Without a plan and a sitemap, your website may end up with information scattered everywhere. Information for new visitors may be spread between the “About” page, some in random blog posts, and still more on your homepage. With your new website, make a new plan.
Your menu should make it clear where a new website visitor should go from the homepage straight to one, organized, informative New Here page with all the information they will need. And links to the “secondary” information they may be interested in.
When you make your sitemap, each page should have a purpose like this––and a home in the navigation menu or a place in a link list from a different page. Say what you need to say and provide clear guidance to the next thing you need to say. Think of a sitemap like a blueprint to plan, coordinate, and make sure all of the content (words, photos, videos, etc.) is right where it needs to be.
Church website content will be easier to produce and upload when you have a sitemap with a plan for your navigation. What you Include in your sitemap makes a statement about what you value as a church. Your site viewers will realize almost without knowing it, but they learn what you’re about and hopefully, it’s what they are looking for.
Common Sitemap Mistakes:
As you think through the things you want to include and emphasize, it’s equally helpful to think of how not to organize your content. The following are some common mistakes we’d like to help you avoid. We’ve seen it all and we don’t want to see you make these mistakes, too.
1. Forgetting Who Your Sitemap is For
Your website is not for your staff, it’s for other people. Use language and naming conventions that everyone will understand. Keep the content clear and unconfusing.
2. Modeling Your Sitemap After Your Org Chart
We’ve seen site maps with hundreds and hundreds of navigation items and pages. Don’t overload the viewer with options, not everything needs to be in the nav menu. You’ll get people calling your offices because they can’t find your information. Keep information divided and organized.
Getting Community Buy-In
When you’re in planning mode for your new website, you’re probably getting a LOT of input from a lot of different people and ministries. As the leader in this campaign, you’ll need to gather, organize, and maintain the content and set expectations so the entire team can be happy with the final product.
Here’s a list of questions you can ask different ministries and people you work with to get everyone on-board, excited, and on the same page of the planning process:
- What do you care about most on our new church website?
- How can our new website impact your ministry area and help you better connect with our members?
- What does our website need to bring new interest to your ministry?
- How many site pages does that message need? [Consider telling each person that you will be making the final decision and that fewer pages is usually better, Encourage them to focus on what is most important, not specific details.
- Our timeline to launch is X. We will talk once every week (or month, etc.) to make sure the product is matching your ministry’s vision.
Now that you have mapped out all of the information that will be included on your website, you can get to writing! Creating content will go much quicker with a sitemap. You should able to see the entire navigation at a glance, see how each page connects, and determine what the page titles are. You can write each page, and keep it organized until it’s time to drop it onto the new pages in your CMS.
If you hadn’t taken the time to create a thorough sitemap, you (and your readers) would wander, lost in a jungle of words, media, pages, and links.
Hopefully this blog post (and your handy example photo) have given you a vision of what a sitemap is, and how to create one for your church website. The pieces of your ministry are essential to the life of your church and the experiences your members have. You are creating a living, breathing platform online for them to use to build and strengthen connections with their faith.
To learn more about getting a church website the features your website needs to attract visitors who stay, download our eBook, G3 Features Every Engaging Church Website Has You’ll learn how to tell your church's story, attract visitors who stay, and ensure ministry growth.