So you have your site up and you want to know how you’re doing. When you write a paper, you always proofread it, and the same goes with your website. What you need to do is audit your site to make sure the site is doing what you hope in reaching your target audience.
There are three potential audiences for your website, congregational members, potential visitors or seekers and people looking for resources. It is important to view your website with these three groups in mind. Ask yourself, how would each group interact with your site? Would they find what they were looking for? Is it easy to find? Does it make logical sense where it is on the site?
Design the site and the pages to make people want to come back. The goal is to have a layout and content on your site that draws people to your site again and again. It is not enough to simply have a site with a few pages that are static and contain little useful content. The web is about information and content that is meaningful to your audience. Ask yourself why you would want to search your site and what draws you into the site. When people return to your site it means you are supplying them the things they want.
Your homepage is the digital front door to your church. This page should be like the front page of a newspaper above the fold. If you have to scroll down your homepage, you need to redesign it to fit these parameters. The homepage doesn’t need to be cluttered or busy but should have at a minimum a nice logo, a few lines about your community, address, phone number and links to important subpages.
Images are an important component of your website. The web is a visual media and a few good pictures can convey your message in ways that words may not supply. Do you have good quality and attractive photos of your congregation (not stock photos of people who aren’t affiliated with your congregation) showing what is important to your mission? Do the pictures engage and draw in your audience?
It is important to write with the Web in mind. This means that the text needs to be clear and concise. You need to write in ways to get the information out quickly. Think paragraphs, not chapters. Multipage PDF files won’t be read but a short press release type document will. Content is extremely important. It should be timely, current and updated regularly.
Make sure all of the pages on your site have a unified theme. Different looks and feels between pages confuse the user and give a very unprofessional look. Remember, you want people coming back to your site. Keep the same font style on the site. Make sure that the navigational links on the homepage are in the same place and order on all of the subpages. You should try and make sure that all the information on your site can be accessed within three or four clicks of the mouse.
Check your spelling! Spelling errors reflect badly on your site and shows a lack of attention to detail. The only thing that is worse is the dreaded “Under Construction” pages. If you don’t have anything for that page, do not reference it at all. Check all of your links and verify that the go where you want them to. If you link to pages that are not controlled by your website, check them periodically to make sure they are still active.
Lastly, have a set of “critical friends” critique your site. These should be people who will be able to give honest feedback to you so that you can be sure that you are doing what you hope from your site.