You did it! You purchased that theme. You’ve got your eyes set on the layouts you need. You purchased the domain that’s going to work with your church’s branding. You’re set.
…Except, how do you begin to build?
At this point, if you were building a house, you have the raw material equivalent of land, prefabbed lumber, bricks, and wiring. What you lack is the blueprint — the plan to put it all together in a meaningful way that will create a house appropriately suited for the people living in it.
In website terms, you need strategy. Website strategy looks at the story you’re trying to tell, the people who will be coming to your website, and puts it all together into a meaningful blueprint for your site structure and content.
Here are 4 tips to help you get started.
- Be you, unapologetically.
The most important questions people need to be able to answer when they get to your website is: “Who is this community?” That’s because the number one thing they’re trying to figure out is: “Can I belong here?”
Be you, unapologetically. Put up pictures and videos that make your church shine for who your unique community actually is. Put up messaging that hits the core of what you’re about. Then, your website will attract the people to your church who really need to be there.
- Take people on a journey, every time.
Once you know the story you’re telling on your website, think through the tangible ways you want people to engage with your community. For many churches it means registering to attend a small group, event, or class. The question you have to ask is, “What is the ONE next step I want this person to take?” Think through three types of users, and give each one a unique pathway: Visitor (knows little to nothing about your church), Attendee (comes infrequently), Member (owns and shapes the culture of your church).
Here are some examples of tangible end goals:
- Visitor: Fill out a Connection Card.
- Attendee: Register to attend Membership Class.
- Member: Sign up to serve.
Once you have these end goals in mind, make sure each type of user can get to that info within 2-3 clicks from the home page. Lead them there one click at a time.
- Chose tools to help meet your goals.
Let’s go back to the house analogy: You have the raw materials you need — land, lumber, bricks, wiring. But you need tools to put it all together. And not just any tools — specific tools to accomplish specific tasks.
Your website is the same way. Now that you have identified where you want to take your users, think though the specific page layouts you’ll need to guide them there as easily as possible.
Visual hierarchy is key here. People scan webpages, starting with photos, then moving on to icons/graphics, then to headlines, then to body copy. You probably did the same thing with this content! Look for layouts that will make it easy for your users to find what they’re looking for. The right layout will help you avoid big blocks of text that scare people away.
- Fight content creep.
Churches, especially larger ones, tend to have no end of new and important information that “needs to be on the homepage” so that “everyone can see it.” And so, content creep occurs. Too much information on the homepage, too many options on the top-line navigation, too many buttons, too many alerts. But when everything is important, nothing is important.
The battle to prioritize information is won when you come to the conversation with a ready-made plan for guiding users to their desired destination. Then your answer can be, “Everyone IS important, and we have a plan for helping them to easily find what they need on our website.”
The best plan is to have a scalable site map with clear, well-thought-out categories of content. Now that you have planned out your user journeys, structure your page hierarchy and content accordingly. Make it clear on the homepage and in the top line navigation how users take their next steps. Avoid insider language, especially on your top-line navigation. Keep it simple.
So the next time the pastor knocks on your door and tells you that Bunko Night needs to show up on the homepage, you can assure him people will be able to find his event and register for it successfully, even if it doesn’t show up in the header image of the church’s website.
You have a plan, and it works!
Need Some Help?
Building the perfect church website strategy is easier said than done, and sometimes having an expert there to guide you can save you valuable time and resources. Our knowledgeable strategy consultants can help you get started on the right path with a free Mission Online Assessment! Schedule a free assessment and our team will connect with you at the time that's best for you to discuss your church website goals and what you need to make them a reality.