Truly investing in a church website and their online strategy is work.
Our team had invested heavily in this small church’s website. From architecture to strategy to development and design. We had given it our all. They had a solid foundation and gameplan for content and social strategy for at least six months. Unfortunately, they didn’t want to hire us to continue to walk beside them in executing content.
About six weeks in, I visited their site to check up on them. The results were horrendous. They had uploaded images that were not sized properly and therefore pixelated beyond understanding. The text was unproofed and they had basically moved all content to the homepage. All the work that we had done with them was seemingly wasted.
Was it all for nothing?
Church websites needs a purpose
No matter what your reason for jumping on the internet bandwagon, there are a couple of things that you need to consider before logging in or hiring that agency.
- Why do you want and/or need a website? This could be as simple as seeing that this internet thing isn’t going away. But digging deeper into why you want a website can give you and your web team some great insights into what should be prioritized and what should and should not appear on the site.
- Who will create and/or update the site? Will you be hiring an agency? A freelancer? Will you be working on it yourself? These days, there are so many tools available these days that almost anyone can get a basic site up very quickly. But a more professional and strategic site may take outside help. After the site launches, who will be updating content? While there is no rule on how often this should happen, having fresh content on the site helps to keep your parishioners up to date and helps your ranking in search engines. Don’t go it alone! Have a team that helps you keep things fresh and complete. Going solo often means that things don’t get done.
- A strategy is absolutely essential. Not only is it important to have a team that can support you, but without a strategy for how updates will be written and what should and should not appear on the website, your site will quickly devolve into a mess like my story. What level of quality will your imagery be held to? Will you put pictures of members and events on the site? Are you prepared for any liabilities that may come from that? Will your sermons be available in audio and/or video formats? What, if any, license will they be under? All essential strategy questions.
These are only a few of the important questions that need to be asked before jumping into web site creation. Church websites are becoming a huge commodity and way for churches to communicate the Gospel into audiences that they ordinarily wouldn’t reach. Have any more considerations that I missed? Have a story of a project that went well because you planned ahead? How about a project that didn’t go well because you missed one or all of these? I’d love to hear about it!
3 replies on “Considerations Before Starting a Church Website”
Training has to be part of any engagement where the customer is going to create and manage the site, from both a content and strategy as well as a security standpoint. That won’t guarantee that the customer will adhere to the principles developed with them during the planning stages and reinforced upon delivery, but it’s great reminder and will help to educate the people inheriting the tasks when the inevitable a transfer occurs the personnel.
We work with a lot of churches, and I’ve found that one of the really hard parts is getting church folks to understand how websites really function. They are not digital bulletin boards. Your home page is not the place for ALL the annoucements (and the resulting competition for getting this or that group’s annoucement more visible). But the site also isn’t just a static digital promotional brochure — you have to have current content.
Your advice to figure out WHY you want a site is crucial. And it has to be a better reason than “the other church near us has one”.
This is a great thought, Bet! So many churches struggle with their why AND an understanding of marketing best practices. That’s also why it’s so important for us to be their partners rather than just their “web person,” so that we teach them the why while also being the expert who does the work for them.