I don't claim to be an expert on website layout or web design. Most of our success in our website is due to Luke Frederick and his team at Sheepish Design and One Town Creative - they are some of the best designers I have seen ... anywhere. And our sites are built on Squarespace - a revolutionary new web platform that is basically WordPress 2.0, but more of a holistic (and very inexpensive) web solution, rather than simply a blog platform.
Luke from Sheepish Design writes:
"The church website has been a great way for people to meet us before ever actually meeting us. This has become common in every other aspect of life. We want to know if a restaurant is good and so we look it up online. We want to know if we should spend money to go see that new blockbuster movie so we look it up on “Rotten Tomatoes”. The same is true for those looking for a church."
Here are the 3 vital keys to making that "first impression" a success:
1. Design, design, design - Research has shown that "52% of users would not return to a website because of its ascetics! That means if your church website is ugly you are guaranteed half of the people who visit the site will not return," much less stop by your church. Good design should also facilitate you simply and clearly communicating your mission. I make it a constant goal to simplify and "say in less words" various aspects of our websites. It is really important to invest in starting with good design.
2. Hooks - cognitive science shows us that the odds that people will remember your website after visiting once is slim to none. That is, unless you "hook" them and get permission marketing. One of the most important items on your front page, blog page (and really every page) of your website is easily clickable links to like you on facebook, follow you on twitter and sign up for an email subscription. This is the ultimate win in website success. Now you can share your content with them anytime it is ready. I highly recommend you use the official "twitter follow" button and "facebook like" button (which you should link to your facebook page URL, not the website address). They have made it almost too easy to follow you! With one click, if they are logged in to facebook and twitter, they can follow you.
3. New Content - another reason people may not stop back by your website is because you don't have anything new for them to see there. I recommend you have 2 or 3 regularly updated areas on your website:
-Post the code for your tweets to appear on the front page of your website as "news." This will be updated every day or two as you post on twitter (and you can set the settings to not show retweets, @replies, etc.)
-Have a feed of most recent blogs on the front page of your website. This will be updated several times per week, depending on how frequently you blog.
-Have section for nicely designed scrolling web banners that highlight campaigns or articles you want people to see. This should be updated every month or so with several new banners, although some banners you may leave up for longer periods of time.
Would love to hear from you - what are some of the best websites you've seen? (especially if it's not your own :) ...