How to Improve Your Church Website, Part Two

A bad website was one of the first tasks to tackle when I began my new position at Peachtree. Here’s what I did:

1. Research and analysis of best practices (This is Part One). My analysis looked at form and function – I wanted to identify primary features of great church sites, name our goals for an improved church site, and highlight best designs (this happened in June, 2012). Some of my concluding thoughts:

  • Less links. The old site had dozens – hundreds – of unnecessary links.
  • Reduced design overhead. I want the site to be a framework or scaffolding for graphic art, so the current art, rather than the design of the site, becomes the focal point.
  • Clarity. The old site had multiple – confusing – points of entry. I want there to be a clear path for new people to explore the church.
  • Big graphics. The Internet is getting bigger and smaller. Mobile sites are small, and desktop sites are freer to be big. We made our big banners 1272 pixels wide.
  • One set of primary rotating banners will highlight the biggest church events. Below, a row of news and events highlight important ministries, but lead with images rather than text.
  • Overall, images are to have a bigger role in the future of the site.
  • The Internet is social media driven. People don’t go to websites anymore; Wired magazine even did a famous, and controversial, feature entitled The Web Is Dead, which demonstrated that the vast majority of traffic happens in one of 10 websites. Strategically, this means we need to go to our people, not ask them to come to us. The new site is designed to de-emphasize static ministry pages, and emphasize a presence on Facebook and other social media pages, which are dynamic and “living.”

2. With research finished, I created a flowchart that mapped existing site pages and data we wanted to keep, and marked pages for deletion. Most longtime church sites have stacks of dusty pages that need to be archived or deleted (July 2012).

3. My designer, Lizz Norman, and I brainstormed some looks based on our favorites from the research. She re-emerged a few weeks later with the basic look (Aug 2012).

4. After a round of revisions and implementation consultations with our IT people, I took the final Photoshop mockups to the rest of the leadership team for approval. They provided additional feedback, which led to another round of revisions (Sept – Oct 2012). Revisions took much longer than I expected. Lots of stakeholders. We identified several concepts to be pushed to a stage two implementation, including a pastor blog, more strategic integration with Facebook, and a re-do of the way our message database is constructed.

5. The IT team began the build out in late October, with a completion goal of Nov 19.

6. We had a week of design changes and fixes, then made the switch last week. The new site is live. It has a few fixes and bugs yet to be solved, but overall I am satisfied with our direction and look.