3 Keys to Websites That Work (Part 3)
We live in an increasingly digital age, and the future growth of our churches depends on the effectiveness of our digital communication strategies. One of your most important digital communication tools is your website, but a website that doesn’t work is worthless.
Fundamentals of Websites That Work
If you’re just joining us, you’ll find earlier posts on Purpose and Design. Here, we’re concluding with a focus on Key #3 – Future.
- Purpose. Everything starts with purpose. If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?
- Design. Websites need to function with as little friction as possible, with a compelling design that reflects who we are as a church.
- Future. We need a website that can grow and evolve. The last thing we want is to create something that becomes irrelevant or ineffective every time technology evolves or a staff person or volunteer moves on.
Why Does This Matter?
Do you remember the old saying, “there are only two guarantees in life… death and taxes”? Well, I would add a third – change. Change is inevitable. Staff and volunteers are going to come and go. Pastors get new appointments. Technology evolves, with new tools coming on the market and old tools becoming obsolete. We are simply going to encounter change. So, when building websites, we need to keep the future in mind. The last thing we want is to put a lot of time and/or money into a website, only to have it become outdated or unusable when inevitable changes occur.
Building With the Future in Mind
The first two keys to websites that work are the first two for a reason – websites without a clear Purpose and a frictionless, compelling Design don’t work. However, one of the quickest ways for a website to become worthless is being outdated or irrelevant. Avoid wasted work and a worthless website down the road by following these principles to build a website that works – both now and into the future.
- Choose Practical Tools. Your website is only as effective as it is up-to-date and relevant. To keep your website up-to-date, you need people – staff or volunteers – to be able to use it. There are far too many websites out there that are “custom-coded” by well-intentioned (and probably expensive) professionals, websites that cannot evolve without paying more money to those same professionals. I’m an unusual “website guy,” in the sense that I’m 100% self-taught and only use code-free tools. I respect the technical qualifications and expertise of developers who can code a website from scratch, but that’s not practical for churches. Churches need practical tools that are easy to understand, widely used, and offer customer support when stuff breaks – tools where we can find plenty of YouTube tutorials. For those reasons, we use Wordpress, Elementor, and Crocoblocks for our website at Resurrection. There are other quality tools out there, but the essential bottom line is the tools you choose must be practical.
- Build the Deepest Bench Possible. How many people understand the purpose and design of your website and are able to work on it or manage it using the tools you have chosen? I recognize this is a significant challenge for many churches operating with little or no staff or budget. This is another reason the tools chosen must be practical, because volunteers are often critical. Think about the high school or college in or near your community. It is very likely there are students who want to develop website skills for their future careers (or even class credit). Again, I know this can be a challenge, but building your bench as deep as possible is worth every bit of effort, because it can provide website continuity to your church and ministry efforts.
- Create Systems and Processes. Ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. You likely have more work on your plate than you could possibly accomplish in any given week, so sustainability is vital to having a website that works and helps your church communicate clearly and consistently. The more you document how you do what you do, the easier it becomes to share the workload with others on your “bench” or to pass the baton when necessary. Your systems and processes don’t have to be complicated, but they should be documented. If your website management is being done from memory, your church is vulnerable to the inevitable changes coming your way.
Our communities need effective churches, because our communities need the transforming love of God. Effective, growing churches have to be able to communicate digitally. Building and maintaining a website that works is the essential front door of digital communication. Building a website that communicates a clear Purpose, through a compelling, frictionless Design, and is built with the Future in mind helps ensure that your message of hope and healing will be heard through all the digital clutter and noise, both now and till the end of the age.
Matt Williams is responsible for Resurrection's web presence and is part of the Marketing & Engagement Team. Prior to Resurrection, Matt was a baseball coach and entrepreneur. He founded and operated multiple successful businesses in the youth baseball industry. He and his wife, Kristin, are the proud parents of Brayden, Ella and Connor.