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Church Websites 101: Easy. Not Simple

Church Websites 101: Easy. Not Simple
Point. Click, Type, Click. Drag, Drop. Share. Take a fresh look at your website - it might be easy, but it ain't simple! The number of easy-to-use site building and publishing tools is cllimbing, but the task of building and maintaining a good website is not getting any simpler. Until now.

The concepts are easily learned and, with proper discipline, you can have an effective, enjoyable website for your church.
  1. Easy fixes
  2. Should be easy fixes, but...
  3. Set goals
  4. Identify strategy
  5. Choose your weapons
  6. Plan and Execute
  7. Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I remember when 'point and click' referred to a new generation of cameras targeted at the masses. With these new cameras, everyone could easily take pictures and capture all those special moments we cherished. No need to focus, no need to adjust for exposure or depth of field - just point, then click.

This new generation of cameras certainly did increase the number of pictures taken - and developed and printed. But, those Instamatic cameras didn't produce a new generation of photographers where everyone had the same vision and skill as Ansel Adams, Geogia O'Keefe, Edward Weston or Henri Cartier Bresson.

It's not the tools, however, that are the problem. It is our human tendency to just get by.  We don't read instructions until we get stuck, we don't ask for directions until we get lost and we don't ask for help until we are almost helpless. It doesn't have to be that way! Here is a set of new lenses for viewing your current website (or lack of a website - start here before you start building).

Easy fixes

Most of the important things are simple things, really. The 5 W's you learned in school apply, but in a slightly different way - What do you have to say? Who do you want to hear it? Why should they listen? Where are they going to be? When will they be listening?

  • Location and contact information on every page (top and bottom)
  • Remove outdated content
  • Add current information
  • Pictures are worth 1,000 words, but are no substitute
  • Get rid of jargon

Should be easy fixes, but...

These fall into a few categories - some are content related (authoring stuff), some are configuration related (tech stuff).

  • Unique page titles for every page
  • Unique and relevant page description for every page (meta description)
  • Images need text alternatives
  • Images should have meaningful names
  • Links should look like links and nothing else should
  • 'www' or not, your visitors should end up at the same place
  • All content should be browsable - PDFs are for printing
  • Faster page loads (especially important for mobile)

Set goals

If you don't know where you're going, you'll never get lost. And, you'll see a lot of new places. We're coming up on the new year - a time when everyone (Almost everyone. Some people. A few people, at least) makes resolutions, or goals, or a wish list. A typical resolution sounds something like "This year, I'm going to lose 3 pounds." Really? Losing weight is an outcome, not a goal. A proper goal would be "This year, I will exercise for 20 minutes, 3 times a week." Or,"This year, I will eat fewer carbohydrates and more fruits and vegetables." (substitute goals relevant to your ministry and its online presence)

  • More website visits and visitors are not proper goals
  • Every page should have a purpose (What Next?)
  • What will you do?
  • What are the (possible) desired outcomes? More 1st time visits, more repeat visits, higher repeat frequency, longer time on site, more pages visited, more visits to  a specific page, more visits from (search, direct, referral), more 'Likes', more 'Shares' and Tweets, more bookmarks, more back links, faster page loads

Identify strategy

Strategies uniquely position a person or an organization in a specific community. Strategy is more about identity than anything else. It is also about knowing what factors to consider - what things will have an impact on you and your church.

  • Mission, Tools, Content, Voice, Tribe, Commitment
  • Variety, needs, access

Choose your weapons

After you've chosen and developed a web strategy that fits with your communication strategy, you'll need to decide how you'll channel your message. The trouble is the Internet is worse than cable and satellite television combined - there are more channels than you could ever watch. Pick a few - a website, a Facebook page and YouTube, if you have video. Know who you are trying to reach and where you'll reach them. 

  • Content types: text, photos, videos, audio
  • Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube
  • Website: platform (content management system)

Plan and Execute

Now the rubber hits the road. No website builds itself. No Facebook page spontaneously generates 100s of fans without some effort. Your resources may not be readily available, but notice we haven't even brought this up until now. If you start with 'what do we have', you'll be like the disciples who didn't believe 5 loaves and 2 fish could feed 5,000+ people.

  • Resources: People, Time, Money
  • Schedule - deadlines and frequency
  • Benchmarks

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

This is a process, not an event. Establish a schedule for reviewing these steps on a regular basis Evaluate what has worked and what hasn't. Refine your goals, stretch yourselves.

We'll be diving into each of these sections in upcoming articles, but if you can't wait, drop me a note -

<< How To Build The Ark Church Websites 101: Fix the Easy Stuff >>
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