You know that you have some very talented web developers in your church who could design a great website. In fact, some of them might have even offered to build or revamp the church website. But you also know that as a large church, your website needs to look professional, while at the same time be easy for first-time visitors to navigate. It also needs to look and function better than all those other dynamic and engaging websites out there. And you need a system that is easy to learn, easy to learn and (hopefully) avoid any internal "office politics."
Each church has specific reasons, but it's probably time to start looking into bringing in a third party to build your church website. Whether it's something you need to get done as soon as possible, or you're planning a little farther into the future, here are some questions you should be asking before you commit.
“Have You Ever Worked With Churches Like Mine?”
You have specific goals for your church and you want to know if the companies you've researched have had similar clients. Sometimes local agencies don’t get what you’re trying to do, but before you know it, you'll be dropping $2000 a month on a website that’s not performing the way you want it to.
One of the first things you'll need to do is ensure that the third party you'll be working with understands certain "large church" features on your website that adequately meets your needs. Some of these necessary features might include:
- A welcome page for new visitors
- Online event sign up
- Online streaming
- Photo galleries
- Online giving
- Multiple campus pages
- Sermon Series and Speaker filter
You'll also want them to understand that just because you are a church (and not a business), it's still very important to you that your website provides an effective way to express your brand.
Remember, you can always take to a strategist in a free Mission Online Assessment. Learn more here.
“Will You Work With My Whole Team? And Stay With Us Over Time?”
It might be your natural inclination to find the good in others, but when finding someone to come in and build your church website, you'll need to beware of those who are just looking to make the sale.
When someone builds your website for you, they shouldn't just leave you after it's built. The person or company you choose should be able to work with your entire team, and not just short term, but in the long haul.
“How Much Will It Cost?”
Depending on what you want, the cost is going to vary a lot. But beware of spending too much (we’re all on a budget, right?). You may want to include all the bells and whistles on your website, but if your budget simply won't allow it, you can always add them or upgrade over time, as you can afford to do so.
You'll also want to ask what the cost will be on a recurring basis. Remember, while upfront costs are one thing, your monthly payments will also vary depending on what type of package you choose. Don't forget to find out how expensive it's going to be to make any changes to the website. Which leads to the next point:
“Are You Flexible With Changes?”
One thing you don't want is a static church website. As your church changes and grows, your website will likely need to change and grow, too. This means the company you work with to build your website should be able to accommodate your evolving needs. You might decide somewhere down the road that you want to add some new features. Maybe you'll want to incorporate a blog or integrate your social media. You'll want to know upfront how these changes are going to be handled.
And speaking of making changes, how easy is it going to be to make simple edits? Is it really going to be as easy as 1, 2, and 3 to add and remove content? Is there going to be coding necessary? Changes are a good and necessary part of having a church website, and they shouldn't be hard to do.
“Can You Meet Our Deadline?”
Of course your timeline will depend on your needs, but it's important to think of a realistic timeline. A completely new, custom site won’t be done in 1-2 months, even by the best website builders (And if anyone's telling you a site can be live in 2 weeks, that might be a red flag!). 6-8 months is much more realistic. If you need something much sooner than that, a tailored template can be built a little faster, maybe in 3 to 4 months, but even that can still be a stretch.
When it comes to discussing deadlines, make sure that whoever you are talking to about building your website is open and honest about if they can meet the timeline. Try to understand their process for research, design, development, and training. Make sure your church and your web development company are able to clearly communicate timelines and expectations. If they can’t make your deadline, make sure they can explain why.
“What Can You Do With DNS Records?”
In case you're wondering, DNS stands for Domain Name System, which is basically a huge digital data base that contains information on every website on the Internet. When you're talking to your third-party website builder you'll want to ask them if this is something they can help you with. DNS records can get complicated in a hurry so you'll want to be sure you're dealing with someone who understands IP addresses, servers, and the various DNS syntax types.
If you already have a domain name and a website set up, how is transferring your domain name and changing name servers going to be handled? What if you want to simply use domain forwarding? Also, since you're talking about DNS records, you may also want to get clarification regarding who will be hosting your website. DNS questions probably aren't deal-breakers of themselves, but you should know what you're getting into from the beginning.
“How Well Can You Integrate with the Site Tools We're Already Using?”
If you already have a church website, you are well aware of the many different tools that you need in order to make it all work. Some examples of the tools you might need to integrate include:
- Online giving platform
- Church management software (ChMS)
- Analytic tools
- Scheduled content publishing
- Forms and registartions
- Video/audio feeds
If you want to keep the things that are helping your church website to run super smooth, you'll need to make sure they can integrate everything as seamlessly as possible.
"What Kind of Support Will We Have If There is a Problem?"
If you have a website, you're going to have problems somewhere along the way,-- it just goes with the territory. The question you have to ask is what kind of support you'll get with the glitches, bugs, bumps in your learning curve and the basics of the online world. Or even worse, what happens if something really goes wrong?
You should be able to depend on reliable phone and e-mail support for both the major problems and the seemingly minor questions. Response time is especially crucial. If your website does crash, how long can you expect it to be before it's up and running again? Or at least before you get an update about what's going on. Since it is so important, this is one area you might want to ask about in particular when you make some reference calls to other clients.