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5 Things to Remember When Building Your Church Website
By: Joe Wagner

 1. Pass the ďglance test.Ē
When someone comes to your website for the first time, you have three seconds to impress them. It doesnít seem fair, but in those first three seconds, those website visitors are also making up their minds about your entire church.

Thatís right. In just a glance, your website visitors get a first impression of your whole church by what they see on your website.

There are three things people are going to notice in those first three seconds: color scheme, layout and graphics. If your website doesnít pass the glance test, you may lose people forever.

Choose your colors wisely. Choose only a few: a dominant color, a secondary color and maybe an accent color. Your color scheme must also remain consistent throughout your entire website.

Website layout is also important. Professional graphic designers spend years learning layout and composition. You donít have that time.

Here are a few basics about website layout. Before you begin, sketch out your website layout on a piece of graph paper. Second, donít try and cram too much into a small space. Third, donít have too many moving parts.

If you have an image rotator and a scrolling announcements module, donít arrange them so visitors see them both at the same time. Too many moving parts can be distracting and annoying. You donít want to annoy people who might be interested in visiting your church.

And finally, donít put poor quality pictures on your website. Lousy pictures stand out like sore thumbs. If you donít have any good pictures of your church, go take some! Having good photos is worth the extra work.

Donít try to blow up small pictures to be too big. They will look fuzzy and unprofessional. Donít try and stretch a picture wider or taller without making the change proportionally.

Donít take raw pictures off your digital camera and upload them to your website without adjusting the resolution to 72dpi. Unedited digital camera pictures are huge files and can slow your website down.

Remember, you have three seconds to make a first impression. Spend some time on your website homepage and pay attention to your colors, layout and photographs.

2. The Internet is a big place. Can people find you?
Optimizing your church website for search engines is one of the most important things to understand. It is also one of the least understood. If people canít find your church website, you are wasting your time building it.

However you create your church website, make sure you are able to edit the site keywords and meta-tags. Keywords and meta-tags are words you assign to your website. When people go to a search engine and type in those search terms, your church website will be more likely to show in the results.

You should also use those same keywords in your copy as much as possible. Have lots of unique pages that correctly describe your churchís ministries. Not only is this helpful to visitors, search engines will use those detailed words to match up your site with people looking for you.

You should also do your best to make sure that your churchís name is in the domain name. Also try and get the word ďchurchĒ into your domain name, too. It is also a good idea to try and get the name of your town in the domain name, too.

If your church is the First Baptist church in a town named Springfield, a great domain name would be www.firstbaptistchurchspringfield.org.  If you felt that name was a little long, you could also try www.fbcspringfield.org. A great solution would be to purchase both domain names and have them both point to your website.

Make sure to link your church website to all of your social media, too! Have an active Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram account linked to your website. The more places people can find you the better off you are.

3. Visitors want facts, not fluff.
Generating content for a church website can be a big job. Many times, overworked pastors or church volunteers put non-essential information on their church website just because it is easy and already available. Thatís not always a good idea.

Quantity does not equal quality. If you are putting fluff on your website that visitors arenít interested in, you are wasting valuable time. Spend your time better by sitting down and describing important items like your statement of faith, a detailed explanation of your ministries and what it is like to be a visitor who comes for the first time.

The fluffy stuff may be easy and it might even be interesting to you or people already in your church, but the average visitor is not going to be interested. When you get that website visitor past the glance test, donít lose them with fluffy content that they donít really care about.

4. No dead-ends!
One way streets and dead-ends are frustrating enough when you are driving in your car. Donít put one way streets and dead-ends on your website. Make it easy for visitors to get around on your site and find what they need.

Have an intuitive menu system in the same place on each page. Donít make website visitors think too hard about something simple. Conventionally, your menu system should be at the top of the page or along the right or left hand sides. Use sub-menu items to organize all your pages.

If you use large graphic buttons on your home page to link to other important pages, remember that those graphic buttons arenít going to be on every other internal page. Make sure visitors can get to those important pages by using your menu system. 
Donít make visitors use up brain power trying to figure out how to get around your website.  

5. Your website is finally built! How are you going to make changes?
Churches spend lots of time and energy building the perfect website. Unfortunately, not many churches think about how they are going to make changes to their website in the future.

If you have a church volunteer building your website, make sure the design is not so complicated that changes become difficult to make. Sometimes it is better to sacrifice a design feature to make your site easily updatable. Even the most beautiful website will be useless if the information is out of date.

You should also have your website volunteer train at least two other church volunteers. Churches and ministries need to be three deep. If you have three people who are able to make changes youíll never be trapped in a bad situation. 

Sometimes churches spend a lot of money to have an outside firm build their website. Relying on that same firm to make changes to your website is not a good idea. Make sure that you get training from that outside design company so that you can make the changes yourself. If you rely on them to make your changes, it may take days or weeks to get those changes made.

Pastor Joe Wagner is a member of Kingdom Inc.ís Church Website Development team. For 34 years, Kingdomís mission has been to help churches be more effective in what God has called them to do by supplying the right Audio/Video and Web resources, www.kingdom.com.

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