Kevin de Young put it very well:
“Your website is the front door of your church for many, many people. If you’d put a greeter at the front door of your physical church, and line up ushers in the sanctuary, and set up a hospitality center in the lobby, and make sure all the signs are attractive and pointing in the right direction, surely you ought to take the same care with your church’s website.”
Here are 10 quick things you can do today to continue to improve your church website and serve the people who use it.
Firstly, why does your church even have a website?! This sounds like a straightforward and even unnecessary question, but the way you answer this will shape the structure and content of your entire site. For example, if you (like me) think that the primary audience for your church website are people who don't yet attend the church, then you may need to make some changes to serve this audience better.
Google's Search Console provides a free suite of tools to check your site's performance, monitor appearance in search engines, find broken links, discover which sites are linking to yours, and much more.
You are familiar with how to use your church website, but what is it like to visit your church website for the first time? Put yourself in the shoes of a first-time visitors and take a look around. What is confusing? What is missing? What is off-putting? Make a note of whatever stands out and then prioritise the changes.
Send a link to your website to a friend who doesn't attend your church (and preferably no church at all). Ask them to review the homepage and any other pages that get their attention. You can ask them to consider the same set of questions, i.e. what is confusing? What is missing? What is off-putting?
Are you still promoting Easter (or Christmas) services on your home page?! Are you calling for registrations for events that have come and gone? If it's old and out-of-date, update it or remove it.
Broken links prevent people from getting where they want to go. Thankfully, it's easy to run a report on your church website to check for links using a tool such as the Dead Link Checker or Google's Webmaster Tools. Once you've found the links that are broken you can then start fixing them.
As more and more people access websites from their phones and tablets, the need for a great mobile experience continues to increase. So how does your church website appear when it's opened on a mobile phone? Or an iPad? Use a free tool (e.g. the Responsive Design Testing Tool or the Website Grader) to find out. You can then make the necessary changes, or start looking for a new theme with built in responsiveness. Here's a great example from the Kreativ team:
We are increasingly impatient when it comes to waiting for websites to load. If it doesn't open quickly, visitors need to be increasingly determined if they are to wait it out. Use Google's free PageSpeed tool to analyze how quickly the site loads:
and get suggestions for how this can be improved:
Still on the theme of site speed, bulky images are one of the biggest obstacles to your site loading quickly. By optimising images (i.e. reducing the file size) the site will load more quickly, and serve visitors better. There are plenty of tools to help you do this - the EWWW Image Optimiser is one that the WP Church Team installed for my Wordpress site.
If your website has a search facility, find out what terms visitors are searching for. This will help you better understand what people want to find on the website, and then make it easier for them to find it. You can use Google Analytics to help you with this - here's a list of the most commonly search terms on Communicate Jesus: