5 Worst Church Website Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Ah yes, the Adventist church website. Isn’t it wonderful? Don’t those super outdated interfaces and mediocre looking font types just make you want to pop into the local church the next weekend you are in town?
I’m totally being sarcastic. And here’s why: SDA church websites are usually really, really wack. So in todays post, I want to stir the pot and offer some good advice on how you can design a missional website that doesn’t bore your neighbors away. In order to accomplish this simply and quickly, I am going to focus on the 5 worst church website mistakes Adventist churches usually make and how to avoid them.
1. YOUR CHURCH WEBSITE HAS AN OUTDATED AND CLUTTERED UX (OR IT’S SO PLAIN IT’S BORING)
The church website is a powerful tool for connection. In one of my churches, a well designed website repeatedly attracts new visitors searching for a church. When they see our website, they are usually sold. This is because we designed it to be a simple and stress free experience that tells visitors “we are thinking of you”.
Sadly, the same can’t be said for all Adventist church websites. Although I have noticed them getting slightly better in recent years there are still some key mistakes we keep repeating. The first is that many of our websites are using interfaces that are old and old translates as irrelevant in modern society. So if your church website is old, most people searching for a church will bypass your church for that reason alone. In addition, a lot of our church websites are cluttered. It’s like we are trying to stuff as much info into the front page as possible and this creates an overwhelming and anxious experience which is totally not cool.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have seen lots of Adventist church websites that are just sooo boring. By boring I mean the entire website looks like a copy and paste “insert-name-here” template that was done with an absolute minimum “lets just have a face on the internet” approach. And if your church website is boring, what that tells me is you are boring.
To the contrary, a church website should have a modern look - clean, trendy and inviting. Unfortunately, most conference provided free church websites are not capable of this. Even recent updates are still below the mark. So my advice is for your church to jump on Wix, Squarespace or Nucleus. They are not free, but totally worth it.
Of course, you still have to use these resources right. They are not magic solutions. For starters, your front page must be super simple to use. Avoid stuffing as much information into the front page, stay away from the sliding image thingy, and keep your tool bar links to a minimun (5 is generally good). The main idea is you want a persons eyes to go to one central place on your front page and not have 5 different things competing for their attention.
2. YOUR CHURCH WEBSITE LACKS NEW VISITOR INFORMATION
There is nothing worse for a visitor then arriving at your church website and feeling like its not made for them. Your church’s contact info, service times and location should be super duper easy to find. You would be suprised how often they aren’t.
The best way to get around this is to always include a heading or button with the title “I’m New Here” and put all guest information into that space. And make sure that its one of the first things a person sees when visiting your church website. It should not be tucked away somewhere.
3. YOUR CHURCH WEBSITE IS LOADED WITH CHEESY STOCK PHOTOS
If you are going to create a church website, please stay away from stock photos! There is nothing worse than a church website with pictures of people who don’t even go there. It’s fake and if you think visitors won’t notice, think again. Its super obvious.
The same goes for your social media accounts. Stock Photos are just plain bad! Now with this bit of advice I need to include another HUGE recommendation. Please don’t forget this one. I am noticing a trend lately of Adventist churches opening a Facebook account or website and the main image is an image of their church building. Seriously - why?
Think about it. No one is going to look at a picture of your church building and think, “Wow, just look at that architecture! (Most of our churches have plain architecture anyways), And that paint job!” or, “Wife, I just found an amazing church! Just take a look at this photo of their church sign! Isn’t it great?”
Let me make this simple as possible. When it comes to your church building and its clever sign - NO ONE CARES.
Instead, have photos of your actual church - the people! Thats the kind of stuff people are attracted to - not buildings.
My advice is have someone in your church with a good camera and decent skills capture photos of church life. Have lots of pictures of church members smiling together, talking, laughing etc. Use those as your church website photos. They don’t have to be award winning photos, but they do need to be authentic (and decent of course). If you don’t have a single person in your church who can take good photos (And no, elder Francisco with his $2,000 DSLR that he just bought last month and now thinks hes a photographer doesn’t count), hire a local photographer to do it for you. But NO stock photos or pics of your church building!
4. YOUR CHURCH WEBSITE USES WORDS NO ONE ELSE DOES
Your website should be written to speak the language of every day people because every day people will be visiting. Make sure you avoid any and all use of churchy language like “Sabbath School, AY, Potluck etc.” - every day people don’t talk like that. Use simpler more general words like “Bible Study, Youth Program, Lunch" etc.” instead.
The best way to do this is to have a non-church friend read through your website and give you feedback. What parts did they not understand? Make them understandable.
5. BASICALLY, YOUR CHURCH WEBSITE IS DESIGNED FOR MEMBERS
Every single mistake mentioned above happens when we design our church websites for ourselves. My suggestion is that our church websites should be a missional tool. We use them to reach others, not just to communicate amongst members. If you sit down with a team and ask - “How can we design a wesbite that will make visitors want to visit our church?” you will avoid most of the mistakes church websites tend to make.
That’s it for me! Any other church website mistakes to avoid? Share them below!