A few weeks ago I received a link to a site called “40 Great Church Websites of 2013“. Obviously I was intrigued.
When I went to this site, it was interesting that there was no explanation or criteria as to what made these great sites, it was just merely a series of images and links to the actual sites. Given that the link was originally presented by Sharefaith, a church website builder, may have skewed the data a bit and made me a bit skeptical. However I went a little further into these sites to see what made them (at least to the people who posted this link) great sites.
What I found was that while the visualization of these sites and the imagery were very nice, what made them stand out was that they let you know out front who they were and what they were about. They were authentic. By looking at their site you could see their message, theology, beliefs and what was important for them to present to a visitor to the site. They didn’t talk about being a “visitor friendly” or “welcoming” church in vague terms, they actually showed you on their site what this meant to them. It was designed to find things quickly and efficiently. It gave a visitor the opportunity to interact with the church through the website. You could tell that this church was active and alive. It made you think you could be a part of it.
It goes back to what I have said in earlier posts — you need to attract, engage and retain. Having a site that looks like one of these “Great Church Websites” may be a start, but without the content to back it up you will be disappointed with the results. You can certainly use these websites to generate ideas and maybe integrate some of their functionality in your site. However, you need to tell your stories in a compelling and authentic manner to get people to go beyond the pretty pictures and fancy graphics.
A good website is three dimensional. What I mean by that is that it not only looks nice and inviting, but it has depth to it. You want to dig into the site and wander around. You want to find things easily and you want to come back again and again to see fresh content and features. That is the real mark of a great website.