Here at the Rio Texas Media Center, we do a lot of website evaluations. Rio Texas Churches can submit a form and we will review their church website and offer an evaluation with suggestions for improvement. When I get a chance, I like to go back and see what they did in response. Sometime last year, I did an evaluation for Laurel Heights United Methodist Church in San Antonio. They had a functional website that had most of the important content but it was time for a facelift. I finally got a chance to check back this morning, and wow!
Laurel Heights has really stepped up. I now have another website to use as an illustration when talking to churches about how to improve their own site or build a new one. Here are some of the things that I really like.
The design of the website integrates photos in a somewhat unique way. They use real photos of real people and, instead on just posting them inline with text, they use them for all of their navigation buttons. It is a great way to share a lot of imagery without cluttering the text on the page. The result is a lot of beautiful white space, really clean text and a lot of pictures to tell the story.
Obvious Place for Visitors to Click
I think it is essential to offer a place for visitors to click and get information. Close to 90% of visitors will visit a church’s website before physically visiting a church. That means that potential visitors come looking for some specific information to make a decision about whether or not to visit. It should be easy to find.
Behind that link is all the essential information.
I love, love, love the map. Google makes this sort of thing very easy to do. Parking can be a big obstacle for first-time guests. Unless you happen to meet in an abandoned Walmart, parking is always confusing. Giving visitors a bird’s eye view of what they will be facing on arrival is a gift.
Before people visit a church, they want to see at least a snapshot of what the church believes. Not everyone who is interested in your church has a United Methodist background. Even if they do, United Methodist Churches vary widely on how that faith is lived out. This is well done in the “Who We Are” section.
Overall Look and Feel
The right colors, the right layout, the right navigation, the right content… all of those things come together to provide a clean, professional experience. In the same way you clean your church restrooms, clean your windows, and vacuum the sanctuary to offer a great first impression on Sunday morning, a great first impression on your website has a giant impact on the chances of someone following a web visit with a personal visit.
Nice work Laurel Heights!
If you would like more information on improving your church’s website or starting one from scratch. Visit the Media Center website at www.riotexas.org/websites.