“If you’re not found in a Google search for churches in your area, you don’t exist to people moving into town.” That quote, by church planter and pastors.com editor Brandon Cox may be a painful truth to you, but it is a truth nevertheless.
The importance of a well thought out and designed website cannot be overstated. Today’s rapidly changing patterns of communication are founded within the digital world, and are only increasing in importance. Last year, the number of networked devices in the world DOUBLED the global population.
It is vitally important that you understand the way your viewers are viewing and using your website – not just your members and regular attenders.
THE QUICK SUMMARY – Everybody Writes, by Ann Handley
Everybody Writes is a go-to guide to attracting and retaining customers through stellar online communication, because in our content-driven world, every one of us is, in fact, a writer.
If you have a website, you are a publisher. If you are on social media, you are in marketing. And that means that we are all relying on our words to carry our marketing messages. We are all writers.
In Everybody Writes, top marketing veteran Ann Handley gives expert guidance and insight into the process and strategy of content creation, production and publishing, with actionable how-to advice designed to get results.
These lessons and rules apply across all of your online assets — like web pages, home pages, landing pages, blogs, email, marketing offers, and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media. Ann deconstructs the strategy and delivers a practical approach to create ridiculously compelling and competent content. It’s designed to be the go-to guide for anyone creating or publishing any kind of online content — whether you’re a big brand or you’re small and solo.
A SIMPLE SOLUTION
At Auxano, we believe that every church is unmistakably unique and incomparably different. God doesn’t mass-produce His church. Your church has hundreds of current stories, represented by its current participants, and thousands of past stories, represented by those who have come before you.
How are you telling those stories?
This is not just true of your church in general, but it applies to your church’s home page as well. As noted above, your website is the digital doorway to your church.
Is it a welcoming doorway for all, or only a few?
Your home page is a metaphorical threshold to your organization.
It’s apt that we use the very human word “home” to refer to the main page of a website, because that word evokes warmth and belonging.
That’s exactly the mindset to get into when you create content for your own organization’s home page – the Web page that is rendered when your organization’s domain name is typed into a Web-enabled device.
Just as in your own actual home, you want visitors to feel welcomed as soon as they step in – to feel comfortable, to sense that you’re happy to see them. And because this is our organization, you want them to get a sense of their surrounding in the blink of an eye: an idea of who you are and what you do – and this is critical – why it matters to them.
Here are seven guidelines for creating home page content:
Speak to your audience. All good content is rooted in a clear understanding of your audience.
Communicate a focus on them. Part of understanding your readers is know what motivates them. When you know what that is, you’re able to communicate how you can help them.
Keep it simple. Don’t be tempted to fill space with lots of copy and graphics – especially above the part of the Web page that first appears in browsers when it’s opened.
Use words you audience uses. You don’t need to embellish who you are and what you do. Use familiar words.
Use you promiscuously. On your home page, use you more than you use us or we.
Now what? What do you want the reader to do next?
Convey trust. Your home page should include elements that suggest others trust you.
Ann Handley, Everybody Writes
A NEXT STEP
Brandon Cox, church planter and editor of pastors.com, has developed a very helpful “audit” for your church website. Using this audit at your next leadership team meeting will be a helpful start to conversations about your website’s home page.
To prepare, set up a large screen with Internet access. Also, make sure your team members have their mobile phones or pad devices. Do not tell them of the specific purpose of this session.
At the beginning, ask the following questions, recording answers on a chart tablet. Ask the team NOT to look on their devices for the answers.
- Is our website responsive and mobile-friendly?
- Is our most basic information easy to find on our main homepage (location, service times, etc.)?
- Do we use imagery that tells people that we’re human, we’re alive, and we’re welcoming?
- Can people easily know what we believe? What we value? And how we function?
- Do we have links to our Facebook page and other social media profiles on our website?
- Is there a way for people to reach out and get in touch with us without leaving our website?
- Can people easily know how to pursue next steps such as baptism, joining a small group, or volunteering in an area of ministry?
- Do we have a page dedicated to our staff and/or key leaders so that potential visitors can know who we are?
Now, ask one half of the group to pull up the church website on their mobile device, and the other half to look at the website on the large screen. Display a chart tablet sheet with the seven guidelines suggested above.
Go back through each of the nine audit questions again, this time answering them as they really are. Note any differences between initial perception and reality, making sure both screen and mobile platforms are covered.
At the completion of this exercise, create a top five action list of the most critical website revisions you need to make, along with assigned target completion dates and individuals responsible.
Excerpted from SUMS Remix 40-3, May 2016.
Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader
Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.