It has always been said that ‘Content is King’ when it comes to web design. If you’re considering right now about redesigning your church’s website, then ensuring you spend time on your content structure will go a long way to making your design stand out.
What Makes a Great Website?
Some would say that a great website is all about the ‘look and feel’. You have great looking images. The whole site is ‘easy on the eye’. But are you effectively getting your message across? Ultimately whether you’re building a store or an online community, you need to sell, sell, sell!
Building a great church website is no different in that respect. You have to sell your content. For a church, that content is primarily concerning Jesus. How can we translate what we know and hear from the pulpit into something that is easily consumed through digital media?
Mobile subscriptions increased to 91.5 million – of which 39.5 million were 4G.
Ofcom’s 2016 annual Communications Market report.
In August 2016, Ofcom’s annual Communications Market Report showed that ‘Mobile subscriptions increased to 91.5 million’. That works out at approximately 1.5 phones for every person in the UK. Pretty impressive really!! But also a bit scary. We have so many mobile phones that getting our message out through our content is a real challenge.
A Simple Content Strategy for Church Websites
Before you even start thinking about the design of your website, you need to work on your content. So what do you need to be looking at?
Create an Inventory
If you already have an existing website, then the best place to start is with a content inventory:
- Open up a spreadsheet or get a sheet of paper and start looking at each page.
- Note down the page title if it has one in the first column.
- Next note down a summary of the page content.
- In the next column insert what images if any the page contains.
- Create another column and use it to decide if that page is still relevant or needs updating.
This is a good starting point even if you don’t have an existing website. In that case think about the pages you might need to have.
Build a Sitemap for your Website
You now have an idea of what is on your website already or needs to be on it. Now we need to consider what should go where! This is an exercise that’s best done with a small group of people from different backgrounds and abilities. You might think you have the best ideas about how people will use your website. You are most likely wrong! Even the best sitemaps need working and looking at again and again.
Here is a useful exercise to get your creative juices flowing:
- Write down on cards all of the existing page titles you’ve found through your content inventory.
- This is a great opportunity to also brainstorm and create new page titles that your site may need.
- Play around with the cards on a table or on the floor to see how they look.
- Try to keep the number of top level headings to a maximum of seven. More than this and your navigation is going to get messy and hard to design.
- Once you have an idea of your sitemap, take a photo of it to help you remember and write it down or type it into a document that you can keep.
- Carry out this exercise several times until you are completely happy with it.
Ensure your Titles are Short and Snappy
We have a tendency to write down screeds of content. We think we need to put every last detail down. To start this isn’t a bad idea as we can get a picture of what we are trying to say. The challenge is then to consider how people read online. But people don’t read, they scan. On average users spend 10 seconds scanning a web page to find what they are looking for. Remember we in the UK now have roughly 1.5 phones each. Not to mention tablets and pc’s…
Remember ‘Headlines sell newspapers’. The same is true for websites. There is a saying that 80% of users will read your headline but only 20% will read your content. That means we need to really consider how we are going to say something, especially if we want people to read the rest of our message.
A good example here is to consider Twitter. Twitter allows a maximum of 140 characters. That number includes spaces, punctuation, links and trending hashtags. I have to admit I struggle trying to tweet effectively as I want to put things in nice sentences. It rarely works as I miss getting my message across before I run out of characters. Imagine then trying to condense your mission or message into a short heading and a single opening paragraph. Get it right and people might stop long enough to read your entire article. Get it wrong and you’ve lost a potential lead.
Spend Time Sourcing Great Images
There is nothing worse than visiting a website and seeing the same dreadful stock images. High quality images are a must for any website. Every picture tells a story, even the bad ones. It’s always a bad idea to visit stock photo websites and grab images of adults or children who look nothing like the actual people who come to your church. Primarily most stock photo sites contain images taken in America not the UK. If you have someone in your church who has a reasonable ability to take good photos ask them to start photographing everything in church. In other words create your very own stock library of photos. The bigger the photos the better for your designer to use.
A word of caution. If your taking pictures of anyone, especially children make sure you have their express permission to do so. Also tell them you plan to use them on your website.
Finally make sure the images are relevant to the message you are trying to put across.
I have realised that this article is by far the longest I have ever written. Rather than keep outlining solutions to getting your content communicated effectively, I’m going to finish it here for now and come back to it soon.
These solutions are just the start of a good content strategy. If you are really considering a redesign of your church website then why not speak to us here at Icthus Solutions. We would love to hear from you. We can spend more time going into the details of how to gather your content together. Following these simple steps however will make the job a little easier and a lot less painful.