Why Your Church Website Doesn’t Cut It

There is probably a 95% chance that your church website needs a redesign, a refresh, or an upgrade. Whatever you want to call it, it just doesn't cut it! I'd say maybe one out of twenty church websites these days are of sub-par design standards.

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I’m just going to go out there and say it. Fellow web designers and developers, I don’t want to hurt your feelings or demean your efforts, but the truth must be told. There is probably a 95% chance that your church website needs a redesign, a refresh, or an upgrade. Whatever you want to call it, it just doesn’t cut it! I’d say maybe one out of twenty church websites these days are of sub-par design standards. It’s probably been built using some sort of template or WYSIWYG editor by someone who has little or no professional training. Unfortunately, the result is a bad website that falls short of successfully representing your organization.

Since these bad websites are giving we christians, catholics, and web designers a bad name, I think it’s important that we strive to resolve the issue at hand. I’ve compiled a brief list of things not to do when designing and developing a church website.

1. Avoid Using Flash When It’s Not Necessary

Flash can be powerful when placed in the right hands, but it can also become a disaster very quickly. These days many things that were only possible using Flash in past years can now be achieved with javascript. There are several javascript frameworks that make animated transitions a cinch. Although HTML5 is not compatible with all of the current browsers, it allows for the use of properly encoded audio and video without Flash. So soon the days of Adobe’s monopoly on internet video will be over. Flash is great if you can make it dynamic and if you are sure to harness the true power of Flash. But it’s also important to remember that mobile browsers like Safari on iPhone and iPad do not and will not support Flash any time soon.

2. Only Use Well-Designed, Professionally-Made Templates

There are many people out there offering templates or pre-built, customizable websites at affordable prices. There are also many people offering cheap used cars on the side of the road. Would you buy a pre-owned vehicle without first getting it checked by a mechanic? Well I hope not. I also hope that you wouldn’t buy a crappy template. Please investigate before you make your purchase. If you buy a bad template, you will end up with a bad website. I recommend using templates designed and built by professionals. Check out ThemeForest for some awesome WordPress themes.

3. Use a Content Management System

There are many talented people out there who can build websites from scratch, but why? In the end you will have spent so much time debugging your code that it won’t have been worth it. Unless you are part of an organization that has spent years developing your own CMS, then you should definitely look into a good CMS such as WordPress or Drupal. This will save you from reinventing the wheel and allow you to focus more of your time on putting together a good design. There are many themes or templates available using the aforementioned content management systems, so if you’re not ready to build your own theme you can certainly find a theme you like and customize it to fit your needs.

4. You Get What You Pay For

This rule applies to almost anything in life, but in this case I’m referring to the price of a pre-built theme or a fully-customizable website. Don’t be afraid to spend some money on your website. Whether it’s a simple internet presence or a full-blown online experience, your website is an investment. For more information on this topic, please read my post “The Benefits of a Catholic Parish Website.”

5. Don’t Do It Yourself, Hire a Professional

If you are not a professional, please don’t waste your time pretending to be. The outcome will almost certainly be failure. Don’t make excuses about money. Don’t be cheap. Hire a pro and you will be satisfied with your final product. Just because there are free services out there that allow you to build your own website, doesn’t mean it will be a good website.

Thanks for taking your time to read through my post. If you are a designer please take to heart this precautions. If you are part of a church I ask that you share this list with your web designer. And I encourage all of you to share the list with your friends and associates so that we can usher in a change. I hope and pray that the quality of church websites can continue to increase as we move into the 21st century. God bless.

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