Most churches have realized by now that we are actually in the 21st century, and while the principals and teachings of the early church still stand firm and relevant-the same can’t be said of their marketing and art. Can you imagine a church in America today that instead of a worship leader with a guitar and microphone used a lute and harp? Or perhaps a pastor that instead of grabbing his handy, off-leather, pocket new testament preferred to do his scripture references while teaching entirely from unrolled papyrus scrolls? If you can’t, neither can I. The fact is that while the message of the gospel is still decidedly true and relevant in our lives today just as much as it was 2000 years ago, the way that our culture receives ANY message has altered drastically within the last decade or so.
Recent statistics* show that about 78% of people in North America use the internet (that’s over 270 million people!) and all of them POTENTIALLY have access to your website. But just because you have a website doesn’t mean that anyone sees it – or cares. So what are some clues as to whether your site is Hot or Not?
First, if you don’t have one at all and are reading this we can help with that. Head over to our contact page and give us a call. We’d love to show you what you can do with one while at the same time not compromising the integrity or budget of your ministry.
Already have one? Well read the rest of this post closely because it might fall into one of the following categories:
HOT: Your site has a well organized and appealing color scheme, clearly defined design rules, consistent use of these rules across every page ( such as fonts, spacing, margins, sizes etc ), a logo that was not created in Microsoft Paint, and uses at least some modern styles that could be described as “Web 2.0″. The way your site looks visually communicates that it is trustworthy and tells your visitors that if you are even half as attentive to taking care of them as you are with the delicacy that the appearance of the site possess – your ministry might be a place they would like to be a part of.
NOT: If your site uses a distinctly tiled parchment background, the colors red, white and blue, these colors change from page to page, your fonts are Comic Sans, Times New Roman and Courier, or your site looks like it was a newsletter before it went on the web, your site looks severely untrustworthy, obsolete and may have gotten lost somewhere before Y2K. Is this how you want potential visitors or ever partners to see you?
HOT: The way the navigation on your site makes sense, and from header to footer all the content across your site has an intelligent consistency about it. There are distinct templates evident across the site. While the homepage may be unique and show clearly the most important items from across the site, most sub pages have the same structure that fit their use. (for example, a page with a lot of text may be full width with no sidebar, but a page that may require additional navigation may be in a 3 column layout with a sidebar. A site that has a well thought-out layout will not have a high learning curve. Elements of navigation, structure and interactivity are generally in agreement with established standards. Having a clear layout complimented by a HOT design is a surefire way to retain visitors that may venture to your ministry site.
NOT: Unclear navigation, annoying ads for yourself or others, poorly defined templates across the pages, long scrolling pages, large lists of links and having everything in h1 tags is a good way to scare away any visitors to your site.
HOT: Functionality is an area in which ministry sites should thrive. After all, as a non-profit your goals aren’t limited by giveaways, free information or resource sharing. In fact, this is what ministries are about. So for a ministry site to educate, assist, and become a hub of free resources is a natural fit. Ministry sites that understand the functionality aspect of their online presence likely will include downloadable and viewable content on their site that includes video, audio or documents. In addition, a blog is a must as it can not only provide a useful and consistent steam of information to your partners, volunteers, staff and congregation. Announcements anyone? Functionality is a great place for your site to show off any flashier elements you want to include as it will directly be used by those that visit. If your site is on WordPress there are hundreds of plugins available to make this possible.
NOT: If your site is almost entirely text it isn’t really functional except for reading. The problem is that books have satisfied that need quite niche for thousands of years. Websites are about what you can see, what you can do. A site that doesn’t draw the user into using it needs to consider why it is online in the first place.
4. WordPress SEO tips
HOT: A ministry site that includes “Search Engine Optimization” as a strategy is sure to go far and has a much greater chance of drawing attention on the web. SEO practices that a good site will follow are: Optimization of site code to be seen by Google, Social media integration so your site, content and resources can be shared with others, keyword optimization of site text, and leveraging all available networks to build back links. Follow these generalized WordPress SEO tips and your site is likely to do well.
NOT: Is a lonely, isolated island that Google can’t see. Does not have social media associated with it, is not optimized and is no effort has been attempted to boost online relevance and presence.