By Rev. Marty Levesque
Throughout this series, I’ve written in detail about how your website is often the first and sometimes the only impression a church gets to make.
But websites are like gardens, they must be regularly tended and updated or else they get overgrown and unappealing. So it’s important to take stock every now and then.
Here are a quick five things you can do to ‘audit’ your website to keep it fresh and well weeded.
1. Keep the pages well structured. Common elements such as headers, footers, sidebars and menu items should be consistent on every page. Your home page can be an exception to this rule, but a visitor must be able to find their way around.
2. Keep the text short and well structured. I try to remove 50% of the words from my first draft. Readers disengage if they have to read too much to find your point or have to wade through too much jargon. Your website is your first point of contact with those un-churched. Words like Eucharist, Compline and BCP and BAS have deep meaning to those inside the church, but to many it is confusing jargon.
People tend to scan when they read online. Break up your text into short sentences and paragraphs. Make liberal use of bullet points and headers and include an image every 250 words to keep people engaged and illustrate your point.
3. The menu should be short and concise. If you need more than 7 items, consider sub-menus so visitors can quickly find what they are looking for.
4. Have a clear and distinct call-to-action that drives visitors to fulfil the goal of your site. If you don’t know the goal of your website, now is a good time to think about it. For a church community, you likely want to increase attendance at your weekly services, solicit donations for your ministry, recruit volunteers, or collect contact information for potential members. Once you have identified your goal, your website needs to make it simple and easy for visitors to do it. A large “register for our newsletter” button or “newcomer information” page may suit your needs. Just make sure to keep it clear and concise.
5. Make your website accessible. You want your website to reach as many people as possible, so make sure it can be read with different devices and browsers. There is now more mobile traffic than desktop traffic so your website should be mobile-friendly at the very least. Ideally you should also consider users using accessibility software such as screen readers for those who are colour blind.
These simple five tips can be used when designing your new website, or auditing your existing site. If you discover your site needs a little work, don’t worry; even the healthiest garden is never maintenance-free. But by knowing what needs to be done and keeping on top of your content, layout, and goals, your site will help your community fulfill the Great Commission and make that first point of contact memorable, in a good way.
Rev. Marty Levesque is the diocesan social media officer and Rector of All Saints’ in Waterloo.