Effective Web Sites
To use the Internet effectively, the congregation needs a web site that is dynamic, promotes transactions, draws people back frequently to read new content, and avoids being a passive bulletin board or a place to present long clergy think-pieces.
Content management is critical.
Update content regularly, preferably daily. Drive people back to your web site regularly, through e-mail marketing.
Use a modern content management system (e.g. open-source products like WordPress or Drupal, or a church-focused product like the one used on this web site, Ekklesia360). You probably will need a developer to assist you in customizing the CMS and site for your purposes. Cost will depend on the complexity you desire. Remember: your site is competing with powerful sites that people visit regularly, so it needs to function as effectively and attractively as those sites. Development costs are worthwhile.
Keep articles short. The Internet is a clicking environment, not a reading environment. Look at sites you admire, both church and non-church, and see how they handle length and use of high-impact graphic elements like photos and charts.
Web-site design must compete effectively with other sites a member or prospect is likely to visit. That means the site should load quickly, avoid fancy gizmos, use basic and friendly colors (e.g. no black background), and convey a warm and businesslike spirit. Design should be clean and simple, as well as consistent throughout the site, so that the user can navigate intuitively.
Update the key pages frequently (at least weekly), and redo the entire site design every three to six months.
Be "customer driven," not "provider driven." Your focus is on the visitor, not yourself. The site should anticipate the visitor's needs and interests, show an appreciation of them, and not lead with pictures of your buildings and a long piece by the pastor.
Internet users expect to manage certain transactions on any web site they visit.
- Web users assume web site is more than bulletin board
- Pay pledge on line
- Register and pay for events
- Manage personal data
A web site offers rich opportunities for collaboration.
- Engage in conversation with group, class, staff
- Download files (Sunday sermons, readings, procedures, policies)and respond to them
- Voice opinions, respond to surveys
Test and measure
Track web site usage. See what people read or do on your site, which pages they visit and for how long, which features they use. Then remove pages and sections that have no traffic, improve pages that have little traffic, and offer more of what obviously interests people.
Web world changes constantly. Not only must your design and content change frequently, but you must see what new approaches and features leading web sites are offering. The same tools that are available to a major web site are available to you at an affordable cost.