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Recognizing What Makes a Church Website Ugly
By: Emily Kantner

Although church websites as a whole have improved in recent years, they still have a reputation for being some of the ugliest around. And it's not just poor design. A lot of church websites are ugly on the outside and ugly on the inside.

Ugly on the Outside
Don't feed the stereotype! Take a look at these ways your church website could be ugly on the outside and see how it measures up:

1. Kingdom color
There are some colors that you probably associate with Jesus and the church—deep red, royal blue, purple. These hues may be great for your Easter cantata or Christmas program, but not so great for your church website.

An overuse of these saturated colors can take away from the messaging of your website and make your church appear outdated. Stick to a softer color palette that still incorporates your church branding in order to escape the ugly. 

2. Warped faces
Many churches choose to include a photo directory of their staff online. It's a great way to help people feel connected and get a true sense of who you are before they ever enter your church. But when the pastor's face looks like it was stretched to twice its natural size, your church is only scaring people away.

Images that look warped or fuzzy mean that you when uploaded them, they didn't fit properly. Pay attention to the quality of photographs on your website—staff photos that look like cartoons could make your website ugly.

3. I've seen that guy
If you take a look at many church websites, you'll probably find the same stock photos of small groups and people shaking hands over and over again. You might think you've met that guy playing guitar or manning the visitor center—but he's actually just in the same stock photo that's been used by every church in your area.

Stock photography can be a great tool for your church, but plastering photos of strangers across your website isn't the way to employ it. Use real photos of your church community throughout your website when possible to appear authentic and relatable. 

4. Papa Bear's porridge
It's not just poor design that can make your church website ugly on the outside. Sometimes it's the content.

In the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Papa Bear's porridge was just too hot to eat. And many churches have websites that are too hot—with content. If your homepage includes a full list of upcoming events, a full explanation of your beliefs, and a collection of pictures from the church picnic, you've got too much to swallow and your website may be approaching ugly.

You should include that information throughout your website, but stick to the basics on your homepage.

If your church website is saturated with stock photography, skewed images, dense copy, and kingdom colors, it's probably time to make a change.

Gather a team to review the website and see where you can improve. You likely have people in your church who can help with these updates, or you can reach out to professionals who can get your church website on the right track—and away from ugly.

Ugly on the Inside
Even if your church website looks great at first glance, it may still be ugly—on the inside. But this kind of ugliness can be more difficult to identify. There are three common factors that make for an internally ugly church website:

1. Web 2.0 came, and you missed it
No, it isn't an update you forgot to install. Web 2.0 refers to a movement towards interactivity on websites. Think Facebook.

But churches also have a great opportunity to engage with people on their websites through interactive tools. Can people give to your church online and print their own contribution statements? How about connecting with a small group or registering for events?

If your church website doesn't provide functionality and resources for your church community, it may be just an internally ugly billboard for one-way communication.

2. One size fits some
When someone visits your church website on a mobile phone, how does it look? Does it adjust to the device because it's responsive? Or does it require a lot of pinching and scrolling to read anything or navigate to another page?

As more and more people turn to smartphones, having a responsive website design that is one size fits all—not some—is crucial. If you don't, mobile website visitors will be frustrated and probably give up.

3. Vanity of vanities
Has your church website become all about the design? You may have gone so far to avoid being ugly on the outside that your website doesn't provide any real value—to anyone.

The purpose of your website should be to help visitors get the information they need and to provide your church community with resources. Is it fulfilling that purpose?

Most people visiting your website are looking for service times, location details, and contact information. Make sure you provide these basic components on your homepage or make them quick to find through simple navigation. If your site looks great but this content isn't easy to find, you may have a website that's ugly on the inside.

Fixing the problems that make your church website ugly on the inside can be more challenging than dealing the external issues. They're less about design and appearance and more about functionality.

So, if you don't have a developer at your disposal, you may need to connect with a company that can help you overhaul your website or provide you with a CMS.

Your website is usually the first touch people have with your church. If they have a poor experience online, they may never make it to your front door.

Investing in a website that avoids the ugliness means an outreach tool for visitors and valuable resources for your church community.

Note: A version of this article originally appeared on the Elexio Blog in video form with content supplied by Rodney Ross.

Emily Kantner is the Content Marketing & Communications Specialist for Elexio, an integrated church software provider of website CMS, church management software, check-in, mobile app, and giving solutions, www.elexio.com.

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