When you meet someone new, you want to make a great first impression. Shouldn’t your church website have the same goal?
However, your church website first impression might not be as wonderful as you might hope. When visitors first encounter a website, they have high expectations.
You only have seconds to grab their attention and show them your site is worth sticking around for. But, is your church’s site up to par?
Make Navigation Easy
One of the first hiccups for many church websites is navigation. Since navigation is a core element, if it’s not friendly, your entire site could be easily dismissed.
When it comes to website navigation, your church has a variety of options. The first thing to keep in mind is to not get too creative here. The more difficult the navigation is, even if it looks amazing, will turn visitors away. Some common mistakes sites make include:
- Placing navigational menus in odd places
- Sticking with generic labels versus descriptive ones
- Basic drop-down menus
- Offering far too many options
- Ordering navigation incorrectly (most important items first and last versus in the middle)
An easy way to make a great church website first impression is to get your navigation right. A few ways to do this include:
- If you use a drop-down menu, use mega drop-down menus. Users prefer these over short drop-downs and it’s a great way to provide numerous options in a more organized format.
- Place your contact page as the last item in the navigation menu as it’s one of the most important items.
- Use descriptive names, such as Ministry, Church Mission and About Our Church.
- Reduce the number of navigational items if possible.
- Use link-based versus button-based navigation as users like it better and it helps your church’s site rank higher.
Ensure Your Site Loads Quickly
Did you know your site visitors are already forming a first impression before your site fully loads? If the Internet only had a few dozen sites, no one would mind if it took a little bit for them to load. However, with a seemingly endless number of websites and pages, users are impatient.
In a culture of “I want it and I want it right this minute,” your church’s site needs to load as quickly as possible on both desktop and mobile. Despite the average page loading time worldwide being 8.66 seconds, the ideal time is three seconds or less.
One thing to keep in mind is your site doesn’t have to be fully loaded in just three seconds. However, visitors should already see menus and a few images so they get a quick idea of your site before all the other elements load. This means you want the most important elements to load first. It’s also important for mobile pages to load faster than desktop.
If you’re trying to reach a worldwide audience, you should know that your church’s site may load at different speeds in various countries or even in different areas of the United States. Geekflare lists 10 tools to help you better understand how quickly your site loads.
Impact lists several ways to help boost your page load speed using methods, such as:
- Using fewer HTTP requests
- Use content delivery networks (CDNs) for more efficient loading
- Utilize browser caching
- Compress image files
While you don’t want your church website first impression to be overly flashy, visuals make a major impact. An image of your church with smiling members interacting is warm and welcoming. It also gives visitors something to look at while other page elements load.
Use images to break up blocks of text and to draw attention to important sections of the page. They’re also useful for showcasing your church so people who decide to visit in person already have an idea of what your church looks like inside and out.
In addition to just images, use videos too. However, videos can take longer to load, so only use videos where necessary, especially on your home page. Also, keep videos relatively short as users may get bored with longer videos. The exception is if the video is a sermon or event, such as a choir concert. A good rule of thumb is to get the point across quickly and effectively.
Keep It Uncluttered
It can be tempting to try and throw everything on your church’s home page, but please don’t. Actually, don’t do this on any pages on your site. You never know what page a visitor might land on first, so make a great church website first impression on all site pages.
Limit every page to just what’s necessary. For instance, your contact page doesn’t need a list of upcoming events, last five blog post titles, your church’s mission statement and so on. All you’d want on your contact page is how to contact your church, church location, office hours and service hours.
EyeQuant showcases how users react to different types of sites using case studies of before and after versions of websites. Simply reducing clutter just a little keeps visitors on your site longer.
Obviously, you shouldn’t go overboard. Going too minimal actually drives visitors away too. Strike a good balance and you’ll make a great first impression every time.
Make Visuals Realistic
If you’re using visuals, but they’re not of your church, visitors might not be too impressed. Many stock photos are obvious, mainly because people have seen them on numerous other sites.
If a visitor opens your church website for the first time and sees the same smiling people standing in the front of the same church they’ve seen on four other sites, they’re going to move on. Why? If you won’t show a real picture of your church, what are you hiding?
One of the top reasons people check out your church website is to get a feel for your church before visiting in person. Generic visuals won’t cut it. While you can use stock photos for blog posts, use real images for other parts of your site, especially your home and about pages.
Place Your Church’s Purpose Front And Center
What does your church stand for? One of the best ways to make a good church website first impression is to prominently display your church’s goal. If visitors have to dig to even find this out or even what denomination your church is, they’re not going to stick around.
Your church’s mission is vital to helping connect visitors with your church. They want to attend and work with a church that has the same goals and values as they do.
A simple statement on your homepage is a great start. You should also have an About or Mission page to fully describe it. Ensure this is one of your main navigational links.
Make It Easy To Find Church Details
It’s difficult for anyone to visit your church if they can’t find out what time services are or when you’re holding special events. Of course, if they’re having difficulties even finding your address, that’s an even bigger problem.
Often times, the first thing a visitor looks for is more details about your church’s location and contact details. Ensure these are always easy to find.
Many churches are making great first impressions by not only having a Contact page, but adding details to their home pages and to the footer of all pages.
No matter where a visitor comes to your site from, they’ll see your church’s main details in the footer. The good thing is the footer typically loads quickly, so visitors can scroll down while other elements load to get the information they need.
Have A New Visitors Section
Where should new visitors to your site or even to your church start when they first get on your site? What is the most important information for them to know?
For many visitors, a church website first impression is overwhelming. Your site might already seem like a close-knit community where they feel they don’t belong. Even though this isn’t true and you’re happy to welcome new people, you have to let them know this.
Make a better first impression by having a New Visitors page or section that lists details about your church, which site pages to visit first, details for new church visitors, important blog posts to check out and any other relevant information.
Suddenly, new visitors go from overwhelmed to feeling like they truly belong in just a few minutes. It may seem simple, but it’s effective.
Ensure You Have The Main Pages
Every church needs certain pages on their site. Without them, you might not make that great of a first impression. We’ve covered the six main pages every church website needs and those include:
- About Us
As mentioned in the previous section, having a page for new visitors is also a great idea. However, having the main six above ensures your visitors have all the information they need to make an informed decision about your church. It’s also enough details to help visitors interact with your church easier.
Design For Mobile
While this one should be obvious, some church sites still aren’t optimized for mobile yet. More people search for sites on their phones and tablets than desktops. If your site displays the desktop version on their mobile device, it’s going to be a nightmare of zooming in and out to navigate. Users won’t be impressed.
The “mobilegeddon” Google algorithm update focused on improving the mobile web by adding mobile or responsive design as a ranking factor. This actually happened back in 2015, so it’s definitely time to go mobile. Backlinko lists more ranking factors to help you make a great impression on Google too.
Skip The Special Effects
Special effects sound like a good idea, but all those actually annoy visitors more than impress them. Of course, some visitors may just see blank or crashed sections of your site, depending on if certain effects are compatible with the user’s browser or device.
Stick with images and videos versus a lot of moving or flashy effects. It’ll be easier for visitors to see what’s most important and help your site load faster.
Keep Your Site Design Current
When was the last time you updated your church website’s design? Design trends change every year and if your site looks like it was designed 10 years ago and never updated, visitors might get the wrong church website first impression.
An outdated design may make them believe your church isn’t interested in connecting with visitors. It can also give the impression that your church is abandoned.
Instead, tweak your site every year or two to add new elements and incorporate new trends. You don’t have to be on the cutting edge of web design, but having a more current look gives a better first impression.
Update Content Regularly
Your church’s blog is a great way to connect with visitors and expand your reach. It also gives search engines more pages to index and more pages for visitors to find you from.
However, if a visitor comes to your site thanks to a blog post they found via a search engine, they’re going to want to check out more. Imagine the disappointment if that blog post was from 2017, but you’ve only had two more posts since then?
Updating your content regularly makes a good first impression and keeps visitors coming back for more. This includes your blog, updating service times (if they change) and adding new events and deleting old ones.
Offer A Way For Visitors To Connect
Finally, your visitors want a way to connect with your church and with each other. If it seems like a one-way conversation, it’s not a great first impression.
Encourage blog comments. Post your social media accounts on your home page, contact page, blog and footer. Most importantly, encourage visitors to reach out, even if they just want to say hello.
It’s easier than you might think to make a great church website first impression. If you feel your site might be lacking, contact us today for help in creating a site that impresses visitors the moment they see it.