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Before someone ever sets foot in your church there is a high likelihood you have already made your first impression on them. We live in a digital age where before going most places we look them up online. Appearing somewhere on the first page of Google results can make or break a business in some cases. So for most people who are considering your church their first interaction with you will be online.
For many people this will be your website. Even in this age of social media, websites are seen as the highest authority on a particular organisation. A website is the core expression of how that company, organisation or church sees itself.
You only get one chance at a first impression as they say! Church websites are today’s equivalent of the front entrance way of your church. Welcoming people who arrive at your door matters but they won’t even make it to your door if your website doesn’t first welcome them.
Unfortunately when it comes to websites, many churches struggle. Perhaps because of budgets or perhaps lack of expertise, or perhaps simply because they undervalue the role a website can play. I previously wrote about some common mistakes I see (4 Common Mistakes With Church Websites).
Today I wanted to highlight 5 essentials for your church homepage. If you think through these things then your front door will be much more appealing! The key is to think about things from the perspective of a visitor, not a regular attender.
1. What Feeling Do You Want to Create
Before we think about the information that is essential to include on your churches homepage it’s important to think about the emotional response you are hoping to create. The combination of words and pictures and video on your site are not received purely as data to visitors. They work together to create a feeling.
For example, there is a whole science behind the usage of colour. Studies have shown that particular colours create different emotional responses within our brains. This psychology of colours is used by marketing and advertising companies the world over. Red evokes emotions of passion and excitement. Orange makes us think of energy and change. Yellow is optimistic and green makes us think of health and peace.
So what colours you use matters. Alongside that, the images you use will normally grab attention before the words. Are there smiling faces? Is it a photo a peaceful scene? Is there a sense of energy?
There are an abundance of right choices here, the importance is to match the imagery to the feeling you desire to evoke.
You will notice many successful websites also have a short sentence somewhere near the top that encapsulates something about the ‘brand’. A few crafted words that paint a picture of what to expect.
So for churches a great websites starts by asking, what do you want visitors to feel? Is it welcomed? It is relaxed? It is energised? Only you can answer that.
2. Access to Online Content
In today’s culture it is more important than ever that churches produce content that they make available online. This can be as simple as making the talks from a Sunday gathering available online. (Thoughts on Live Streaming here). Or it could include specific media for an online audience. Audio is great, blogs are great, but video is even better.
For those checking out your church, your media content provides a window into your church. It is the equivalent of peering into the window of your actual building to watch the service in secret! For those who want to know more about what to expect a video is ideal.
If they can get a feel for the room you meet in, the style of worship or the quality of your teaching before they even think about showing up, then you are helping them.
I heard one pastor say recently that they had people who watched their online content anonymously for 6 months before they ever set foot in the building!
Now at this point we could spend time debating whether it is a good thing people approach churches like this, or we could simply recognise this is how people behave. It affects us all.
Before you visit a new hotel do you not want to see photos of the rooms? Before you drive to a new building do you not want to use Google Street View to see what it looks like from the road?
Making your online content obvious from the home page is an essential in todays culture.
Letting people get a sense of who you are and what your stand for is the third essential on our list. Of course you won’t be able to fully articulate everything that defines you, but this is where good communication skills come in. If you can find short hand ways to articulate what you are passionate about as a community and or what you are building together – this will immediately help people get a feel for your church.
Defining a vision and then articulating it in a succinct and memorable way is a definite art and will take energy and time (Here are some pointers in this post). The clearer you can make this however, the less confusion a potential visitor will feel.
Your vision is more than simply a vision statement, though it includes that, it is also shown through the images and language that you employ throughout the site.
On your home page however, somewhere, without expecting someone to click deeper they should get some sense of why you exist as a church.
4. Where and When You Meet
Now this one might seem a little obvious, and yet I have sadly encountered many websites that seem to bury this simple information deep within their website. Your online content needs to be obvious and easy to access, and yet just as important should be the basic where and when of your in person gatherings.
Within the first screen or two a casual visitor should be able to learn what time you meet and where you meet.
For most visitors this is the main reason they will on your site. For the authoritative information on how they can attend. It is best to not make people work for this basic information. Further information on your gatherings can be linked to but the headlines should be obvious at a glance.
5. An Invite To Connect
The goal of your website is not to simply look pretty, or provide great information, but actually create a connection with your visitors. In the same way the front door of your building is something to pass through – your website is an opportunity for connection. In multiple places look for opportunities to invite a visitor to connect.
If someone can move beyond being an anonymous online viewer to giving their email or commenting or interacting in some way, that is the first step in a deeper relationship.
Ideally your home page makes it clear how to make that step. It could be a link to a contact form or an email address that can be clicked on or even an instant chat window.
Throughout your site you can then place lots of invites to connect. Want to ask something about our services? Why not send us a message. Want to let us know you plan to visit? Just send us an email.
The best church websites invite a relationship and don’t just provide information.
The Essential Home Page
These are just 5 tips for your church home page. Hopefully you have found it helpful. Why not take this list and review your existing site. How did you do?
If you think there is something I have missed then please let me know below.
As well as getting the essentials right sometimes it is about avoiding mistakes – here are some of those – 4 Common Mistakes With Church Websites.
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