Web Site Design and Management
Why is it important that a church maintain a good, up-to-date web site?
1. There are many reasons why a church should maintain a great website. Here are just a few:
a. If a potential visitor is searching online for a church in the area or an area that they plan to visit/move, the church website can be a great way to express the vision of the church along with benefits of one attending services. This can be done with text, audio, video, and/or images. The website should tell the story of the church as well as express the personality of the membership. This is a great way to communicate to the community what ministries are available at the church.
b. The website can be a great outreach tool if done correctly. Posting service videos and audios is a great way to get a visitor to stay on the website a bit longer. The longer they are on the site engaged with content, the better chance there is of reaching a new person or inspiring someone that hasn’t visited in a while.
c. The quality of the website whether directly or indirectly affects how leadership is viewed. A thrown together, unprofessional website can and does reflect negatively on the church leadership. I poorly managed website can give the impression of unprofessional-ism on the part of the church leadership. A well managed up to date attractive website can give an appearance boost and though we may not want to say it, appearance with regard to the church does matter. Folks generally want to be under leadership that has things together and a well thought out and managed website can help to convey this message.
d. The website should also serve as a communication tool with the saints. The saints can utilize the website much like a church bulletin. Information on events and things going on at and around the church can tie communicated via the church website.
e. Discipleship training can be done via the church website to ensure a balanced standards-based program is being taught to all church members. This is best done by church leadership via video.
What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of a good church web site?
2. The most important elements are listed in order:
a. Appearance. The site should have an up to date look and feel about it. Not too flashy, but simply professional and clean.
b. Easy navigation.. Too many links can be overwhelming and confusing. Consolidate navigation so that is sensible and easy to understand and follow.
c. While the content seems to be the obvious choice for being the most important aspect of the website, it is ranked third a an element because without the first two, no one will get to the content. Content is the most important aspect of a website, because without good quality content, folks will bounce to another site and never hear or read the website message. Content should be well constructed and not too wordy. A website is not graded by the amount of content on any given page, but how well the content that is there is communicated. Communicate to the audience you are trying to reach. The author of the content could have a PhD in theology, for example, but the average person will not be impressed by large complicated words. They will move on and the message will be lost.
d. Engagement on a website is important. While is element is not completely necessary, getting the visitor to be engage with the site is great way to keep them on the site longer. The formula is simple, the longer they are on the site, the better chance you have of getting them to emotionally commit to a church visit.
How can a church best keep their web site current, fresh, and up-to-date?
3. There are three areas to consider when ensuring that a website is current, fresh, and up-to-date. Those are:
a. Design. Just like clothes have a season, so does a website design. The easiest way to make sure you aren’t trapped in an out dated design is to separate the content from the design. This is easily done using CMS or content management software. I recommend the following opensource solutions: WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. Using one of these will help keep the content separate so you can change design when desired.
b. Old fashioned working at it. Maintaining a website can be fun, but it does require work. Someone will just need to take time to remove outdated content and updated with new information.
c. Leave an out. Don’t assign the website content task to a person. Build the site with
scalability in mind and have departments, not persons, in charge of content. People change, most departments have seen around for years.
What, in your opinion, are some real ‘no-no’s’ to avoid when designing a church web site?
4. There are definitely some things to avoid:
a. Avoid assigning the task to 4meone that has never built a website before but is a real go getter and thinks they can. Thy may succeed, but why put the church and the saint in a position that is most likely going to result in disappointment.
b. As stated before, leave an out. Have the site built on a platform that is easy to manage and easily taken up by someone else.
c. Image quality should be great. Poor image quality can reflect poorly on the site appearance.
d. Check the color palette. Use colors that compliment each other and that are not too bold for the main church site. Bold and wild colors are fine for the Sunday School, and Youth page.
e. if the church doesn’t have an editor, make a small investment to have someone that is an editor review the main site content. A site with poor grammar reflects poorly.
There are three areas of expense in web development: graphic design, web site design, and web hosting costs. How much does a typical church spend in each area?
5. Suggesting an expectation for the associated costs involves a lot of variables, but the following are some general guidelines:
a. Graphic Design: Depending on the complexity and the size of the image, graphic design can run from $25 to over a $100 per image. A typical logo runs from $100 to $250. While the logo is a bit more expensive than other images, it is probably the most important graphic design that is done. It speaks to the core message of the church and if he online and offline media. The logo you want to get right.
b. Web Site Design: There are great templates available that can be used as a great starting point for under a $100. The task then is simply site layout and content population; however, if you want a complete custom web site design, expect to pay a good designer $1500-$2500 and even more. If a developer assists you with the site set up and population of core content, you can expect to pay $300-$1000, depending on the amount of content added and set up needed.
c. Web Hosting: For a church, hosting will run around $25/month for basic hosting that includes the sever resources to handle a typical church website. This cost can get quite a bit higher if there are applications, like video, hat demand larger server resources. There are ways to keep server demand content on other websites. For example, if the church has a video ministry, they can host their videos on a site like Youtube. For large image directories, Photobucket or Shutterfly can be used. Large file downloads, like music and video files can be hosted on Media Fire. All these recommended sites have free options so this helps the church keep costs low.
d. Web Management: I always recommend paying a small retainer fee to keep the developer available to help as situations that need someone with more experience to handle arise. The cost varies, but we charge $20/retaining hour which 50% is developing time and 50% is training and support time. Unused time expires in our case, but in the long run using this option can save the church hundreds of potential development/support dollars. The normal rate for our services is $75-$125/hr, so securing time at the retainer rate can be a huge savings.
What can a typical church expect to spend total on web site development? Are there any ways to lower costs?
6. I can’t speak for other companies, but we give churches a break when working with them, so our cost may not be reflective of the norm. We typically will build the website using a template for $200, which includes some custom graphic design. Then we charge $39.95/month for hosting and web management. We include up to 1hr site maintenance and training in this package per month. As far as lowering costs, with our set up and management package we have planned to provide a quality professional website while keeping the costs as low as possible for the church. It’s part of our ministry.
Enterprise Web Solutions
“The Right Solution, The Right Time”
The article “Web Site Design and Management” written by John Howell was excerpted from www.enterprisewebsolutions.com website, March 2010.