Things a Church Website Should Make Very Easy To Find

We are going to be looking for a home congregation when my internship is over in May. We’ve been at First Parish Cambridge since we moved here, and feel like there is great transition going on there, and we are ready to find maybe something a little smaller or somehow a better fit. We’ve also looked at churches in cities we’ve thought of moving to or visiting. Here are some things I’ve noticed scanning websites of potential churches. Not that I am somehow a good website designer – I just know what I like when I am looking so maybe this will help folks make websites more user-friendly.

  • Somehow congregations do not make it clear what size they are. I want to know how many people usually attend on a Sunday morning. 70? 100? 600? If congregations put this on the website, it is usually buried somewhere non-obvious.
  • Also, I want to know a little something about the minister – not just his or her email. Where did they study? Work before this? Interests? Religious orientation? A picture is nice too just to put a name with the face.
  • And many churches have “What to Expect on Sunday Morning” which is very helpful. Do you go in the side door? Do children stay up with parents, or do they go to classes right away?
  • What programing goes on at church – at a glance. A six paragraph explanation is not “at-a-glance.” There is often indication of this program or that, but the websites often seem to be made for people already familiar with the church. What is the range of committee and projects that take place and that a potential person might get involved with? A list would be helpful, with a link to a more detailed description. This www.firstparish.org/cms/content/view/96/69/ at the First Parish Concord website is a good example.
  • Links to pictures are nice to see what things look like going on at the church. No need to upload 4000 pictures, but a selection of different key events.
  • What is the flavor of the church? Mission statements really don’t seem to be very helpful in this. Is it a very liturgy-based sort of service? What is the singing like? When you call your church diverse, what exactly do you mean by that?
  • Explain things that visitors might not know, and make the explanations easy to find. For instance, if there is a “Forum” on Sunday morning, what might this be? Some sort of Sunday School for grownups? A discussion of the sermon? What is “coffee hour”? Will people talk to me there or will I stand there feeling awkward and out of place?
  • Less is more. I want to be able to see where the main menu is and use that to navigate the site. Lots of links and flashing things all over the page are confusing.
  • It is hard to know how to get involved in a new church. Making this clear and easy to find on the website is really nice.
  • The website should be updated and accurate. If you say, “Our ____ group meets every Tuesday at 7 and all are welcome,” and then there is no one there, that is kind of frustrating.

Just some thoughts I have as I procrastinate on doing the work I should actually be working on.

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16 Responses to Things a Church Website Should Make Very Easy To Find

  1. [...] Things a Church Website Should Make Very Easy To FindHere are some things I ve noticed scanning websites of potential churches. Not that I am somehow a good website designer – I just know what I like when I am looking so maybe this will help folks make websites more user-friendly. … [...]

  2. Anna Belle says:

    This is a very helpful list to a church webmaster like me. We’ll be doing usability tests soon in the Nashville congregation, hoping to discover just this sort of information. Perhaps we’ll be lucky and Nashville will be on your list of places to visit.

  3. shai says:

    it’s a shame you’ll be leaving cambridge! but good luck wherever you land.

    also, i found this post very interesting and forwarded it on to the UU “Websters” list, for UU church website administrators. i’ll also forward it along to the first parish cambridge list.

    thanks!

  4. Pat Geary says:

    Excellent suggestions. Some I have already implemented but never really thought of adding anything on the size of our fellowship (small). We are lay-led for the most part but have set up a guest minister schedule which I just added to the site. Have a what to expect but will work on some of the others. Thanks and be sure and top and visit if you are ever in Virginia.

  5. elizabeth199 says:

    Thanks for all the comments, everyone. Glad to be of help… If anyone else can think of things that might be helpful for church websites, feel free to add in the comments.

  6. dfbanks says:

    Elizabeth–very nice and very helpful. Some of these things we have thought of, others not. Visitors pages seem to stress presence–or absence–of neckties, but not for example whether you are sitting in a small room with 175 people or a large auditorium with 75 (or 750). One thing we do that I think might be useful to prospective members is–streaming audio sermon library. Hear our ministers (and yes, their faces are on the page) before you visit… I know that this is catching on but could be a lot more commonly used…
    Dave

  7. We’ll definitely take these comments into consideration when we rebuild our website.

    Meanwhile, if your looking for an alternative to Cambridge – come visit us at the UU Church of Medford – only a couple of miles from Cambridge(about 80 people on a typical Sunday) :-)

  8. elizabeth199 says:

    Medford is on our list of places to visit!

  9. [...] (Elizabeth’s Little Blog) has a good little list of, well “Things a Church Website Should Make Very Easy To Find.”  Included are bon mots of what that site should include like “What programing goes [...]

  10. Ted Pack says:

    > If anyone else can think of things that might be helpful for church websites . . .

    The one I’m proudest of is about neckties. One of our FAQ’s says “be comfortable”, which isn’t very specific and seems to be on every FAQ page I’ve read. I have added this to ours:

    “If you are a gentleman who feels most comfortable when he looks like the rest of the guys, then navy blue Dockers and a dress shirt (no tie) will put you right in the middle of the crowd.”

    which gives the satorily unsure a solid suggestion.

  11. Ted Pack says:

    WHOOPS! the Q in that FAQ I mentioned is “What do adults wear?

  12. [...] Things a Church Website Should Make Very Easy To FindHere are some things I ve noticed scanning websites of potential churches. Not that I am somehow a good website designer – I just know what I like when I am looking so maybe this will help folks make websites more user-friendly. … [...]

  13. [...] Little Blog just zeroed in on this issue – Things a Church Website Should Make Very Easy To Find – and she’s a user. Such feedback is a treasure to an insider like me. To her list, I would add [...]

  14. Penny says:

    Another factor that varies with the church is whether the Sunday morning service is the main one. I’ve been to different Episcopalean churches where:

    – the morning service is lightly attended, but the evening service is full
    – the morning service and the evening service are both attended roughly equally
    – the morning service is heavily attended and there were three people (including the minister) at the evening service

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