For 30+ years I’ve worked in communications, with about half of that time spent working with church websites.
Over the last 10 years I’ve spent a lot of time helping others work with their websites as they’ve developed a website-centric communication hub. This past year as Communication Strategist of a statewide denomination, I’ve gotten deep in the weeds of fixing website issues. What I’ve learned? If your website’s broken, your communication strategy (in this new digital world) will be broken.
Like all problem-solving, it’s rare that a quick fix will solve longterm issues well.
Someday I pray that website development will be even easier than it is now. But no matter what content management system (wordpress, joomla, etc.) you use, you must spend a ton of time on it. Your website is never “done”. It’s a work in progress both on the user interface side as well as the content.
If you do these simple (yet time consuming) things, you’ll discover they’ll save you a ton of time in the longterm:
Understand what you want your church brand to be known for: a beneficial promise. Add the tagline to your logo. Then consider how you provide it to your audience. Ensure your menu gives enough info about how you provide it uniquely. The menu shouldn’t raise questions, it should answer them. This keeps people on your website to find info instead of calling your office.
* Edit. Edit. Edit.
For people to consume website content, you must simplify to remove all the unnecessary content. Stop the calls and emails looking for clarification because they didn’t want to read (because of its length). Also, the editing process helps you clarify overall message (saving time as you work with the various ministries).
* Answer Persona Questions.
A local church can’t reach everyone. Neither can their communication. Instead, know who you want to engage with and do it extremely well. Picture them often, but most importantly, talk to them (in person) to discover what questions they have. Then ensure a short website path to answer them simply. This saves inquiry time later!
* Automate Forms.
Forms take time to set up but add dropdown fields to help understand the ministry area where the inquiry comes from. Then automate the form submission to send the question to the person that best answers the form. This alone saves a ton of time (answering and forwarding emails)!
* Add Downloads.
Many times (especially in ministry world) websites point people to ask for things, or pickup something at the church. Most people just want to refer to something quickly. Instead (to save printing time) put the content on your website or have a downloadable PDF. Scared you’ll miss a lead? Have them give their email address in order to download. Then followup via email.
* Link and Lead.
Every page, post, event, etc. should have links to other places on your website (for more info that someone might want). Don’t create dead-end pages! The longer someone stays on your website, the more inquiry time is saved at the guest services’ desk late