Last week I was clicking through our list of users who have web sites checking for dead links and found several.
I also found others who had changed their web address and did my best to get those corrected.
Many of you who read this newsletter are also your church's web masters or at least have the attention of the one attending the site.
I claim to be no expert on web pages or even what they should look like, but as one who is interested in the congregations who use our services, there are some things I have noticed and would like to pass on.
The following is a list of things you might consider about your church's web site.
When determining what your web site should be like, you need to decide one important factor:
is the main purpose of your site to attract outsiders or is it mainly for use by your members.
If you want both, then consider building the main site for your members and set up a micro site for non-members.
A micro site is a smaller web site specifically designed for a specific purpose.
- First of all, you should pick a name for the site that is easy to convey.
- Don't use confusing abbreviations or special characters.
- Make sure your domain is maintained and paid or else you might find you have no site some day.
- If possible, before the site goes live, have several people view the site: members and non-members, web savvy and those who know little about the web.
- For members, the home page should contain only information important to the functioning and betterment of your congregation.
- If this page has too much information, your members may find it confusing and not use it to it's full potential.
- The site should contain current information and therefore should be easy to update.
- Different sections of the site should be maintained by those who have an interest in seeing it updated.
- Some of the sections should be restricted to outsiders if there is information available that could be used for marketing or illegal purposes.
Examples include birth dates, anniversaries, addresses and phone numbers.
- Don't do more on the site than can be maintained on a timely basis.
- Calendars are great ideas.
- The best time to post the weekly bulletin is before the weekend of its issue.
The whole bulletin does not need to be posted.
Remember, the whole world can see it if that page is not passworded.
- Keep in mind that placing copyrighted music or other material on your site may be against the law. Make sure such pages are passworded.
Many other suggestions can be found at: Church webmaster tips and
Designing Congregational Web Sites.
Several companies specialize in building church web sites.
Check out administerweb.com and Church Web Works for two examples.
You can find plenty of references by searching "church website design" on Google.
- For outsiders, the home page should be like an ad in the yellow pages.
- The home page should have enough information to identify your congregation.
Include the congregation's name, address, city and state, worship service times, and contact information.
A visitor to your town shouldn't have to go clicking around to find out if they are on the right "Central Church of Christ" site.
Also, that address is important.
Folks with a GPS can input that address and drive to the building without any further help.
This may be the only page some congregations need.
There are opportunities to have such pages free of charge.
- A link to a location map is a great help for people without a GSP.
A set of directions is useful also, but not at the expense of a map.
- A picture of the building front can be a good idea, but remember that the building is not the "church".
- Provide links to other pages on your site that would interest those seeking to know more about your congregation.
- Choose carefully links to reference material or other sites that reflect your congregation's convictions.
- Limit the information on this site to information that you would not mind putting on a banner above your main entrance.
- This will be the site that newcomers to your community will see when searching for information about churches to attend.
Building a page just to encourage visitors is a good idea, where the assets of your congregation can be put on display.
- Keep this page simple with few pictures to keep load time to a minimum.
Important information should be above the "fold" so scrolling is not necessary.
The whole page should print out on one piece of paper.
- Don't publish too much information.
Too many pictures and even maps of the interior of the building can be used by those who want to know where everthing is when no one else is there.
But a map to show visitors to the entrance where they can be greeted upon arrival is a good thing.