Speaking at national and regional church conferences keeps us busy! As we lead informative and practical keynotes, sessions, and workshops, we have QnA time so we can 1) clarify what’s been discussed, and 2) understand the needs that exist in churches (our target audience). One of the most-asked questions during our Church Communication sessions? “What’s the best church website to look at that’s doing everything correctly?”
Our answer: There isn’t one. Sure, there are many trying to get it right but just when we suggest a “good” URL, it probably recently changed in an ineffective way. Getting the complex formula of being the “best church website” is so complex, no one is achieving it. Here are 6 reasons why:
- User Interface vs User Experience. How your church website looks is the interface (UI). It needs to feel simple while looking like your church brand. The way content is received by the user is the Experience (UX): highly subjective based on your audience — not another church’s audience.
- No one says a church website is their favorite. Wouldn’t it be nice though! Instead of looking at a church website to see the “best one” (so you can copy it); look at the world’s most popular sites. That establishes web paradigm we need to replicate. The UI/UX of a church website must not break the UI/UX paradigm of websites frequented by your audience.
- Website paradigm trumps church website paradigm. The unchurched community must be able to visit your website and find what they’re looking for. Easily. Sure, many churches have solved the organizational structure of a church website; so replicate it. But only if it makes sense to your audience as your church ministry is structured.
- Just because another church does it, doesn’t mean you should. Their brand is probably different than yours (because brand is based on local audience’s needs). Ministries are also different. Paradigm can be replicated, but content relies on context.
- Content that’s SEO friendly makes the best church website. The best church website is one that delivers what an audience desires, in a fashion they feel comfortable with (paradigm), as quickly as possible, in a manner that feels/looks like your church brand. And it must play well with Google so people discover the content from outside of your URL. There. That’s the complexity.
- A church website is never done. All websites need constant changing (so there’s rarely a time it’s perfect). So, ensure you’ve identified your audience, created stereotypical personas to target a growing community group (focusing on needs, concerns, and goals), to offer solutions. Then (while concentrating on website paradigm), design a simple interface that delivers content through understandable organization. And allow them to discover it quickly.
You won’t build the World’s Best Church Website. But you will have a foundation for a website that your audience will love, enjoy, and use. Then keep improving it. Not because you’ve seen something on another church’s website. But because very popular websites (to your audience) use it.