Aiming at two groups of people
The most successful websites are those designed with their target audience clearly in mind. Your target audience is simply those people who you hope to attract to your site. Good church websites are hard to create because they must reach two target audiences, not just one. The key to ensuring that your website works well is to design according to the different needs of these two audiences. Your first and most important audience is those people who are not yet Christians but who are considering coming to your church (perhaps because they have a friend or neighbor who goes, but they want to find out more). The church website offers them an ideal way to find out about the church and the Christian faith in an anonymous way before taking the plunge and coming along in person. Your website’s second audience is your existing church members. This group is less important than the first, simply because there is probably little which you can place on the website that they don’t already know, or can’t easily find out from another source. So do provide information relevant to church members, but not at the expense of making the site inaccessible to your main audience of non-churchgoers.
Providing relevant content
The key to good design is to ask yourself what the members of each target audience are looking for when they visit your website. Potential visitors to your church probably want to know:
- · Is this church weird, or do normal people go as well?
- · What do Christians believe?
- · Why do people go to church?
- · Where is the church?
- · How do I get in touch?
- · What times are the services?
- · Which service should I go to?
- · Are there facilities for children?
Many church websites do not answer these sorts of questions. We often come across sites which look good, but which don’t rate very highly because they are not focused on the needs of non-churchgoers. By contrast, a good church website is aimed primarily at those who do not yet come to church.
The sort of information which church members may look for on the website is very different. They are more likely to ask questions like:
- · Who is preaching next Sunday?
- · When is the next WELCA/Council meeting?
- · Is the prayer meeting on Tuesday or Wednesday?
Since the questions which church members are asking is so very different from that asked by other visitors, it is almost impossible to write one page which is interesting to both sets of visitors. Either you end up giving church members information they already know, in which case they won’t bother looking at the website very much, or you confuse potential church visitors. The solution is to have different pages for different audiences. For example, to tell people about the Sunday services create one page containing the basic information which an enquirer might need to know (e.g. service times), and then provide a link to a second page which contains detailed information for church members (e.g. who is preaching). If this is done throughout the site then you will achieve your aim of providing a website which is welcoming and informative for both your casual visitors and your church members.
An additional audience
There is a third group of people who will visit your site, namely those people who are already Christians but who don’t go to your church. Perhaps they go to another local church and came across your website, or perhaps they recently moved into the area and are looking for a church. Whoever they are, there is no need to design your website to reach these people. If you have followed the advice given above, your site will already welcome them and provide all the information they need to know.