Do you need a better website builder? Is your website responsive (aka “mobile friendly”)? Do you have a web strategy for your site? What even is the best web strategy for churches these days?! Don’t worry, I get it. Re-working your website is a huge undertaking. I know you don’t really have time to take on another project, but I bet your boss thinks websites are “important” for some reason. Good on you for saying “yes,” even though it means more late nights to get it done.
Look, I’m not here to waste your time. Let’s kickstart your strategic planning so you can make the best decision for your organization and not find yourself halfway through the project and banging your head against a wall because you just learned a new, crucial piece of information that makes you want to restart the whole project even though you’ve got other things to…like your job.
I’ve been there, so hopefully that means you won’t have to go there. At least when it comes to website stuff. Or maybe this whole thing website redesign was your idea and you’re super excited to get to work because your current site is atrocious and you can definitely do better! Check out this breakdown on the best web strategy for churches before you get started. Create something with the future in mind (not just the here-and-now).
Great Web Strategy Starts with an Investigation
What are your current pain points? Is your website running too slow? Realistically, it could be your site’s host. If you’re not using a WordPress or Drupal site, you might be out of luck. Skip ahead to the tips that are relevant to you, or stick around to learn some fun new talking points. (You need another way for your friends to roll their eyes at you and call you a nerd, right?)
Fixing Slow Server Speeds
Try routing your traffic through a Cloud Delivery Network (CDN) like Cloudflare. This is a simple hack, but it won’t solve the root issue. Any time you update your site, users will have to download a new version of your site. Based on how often Sunday comes around, this is probably going to happen once a week. Yikes.
Realistically, all you can do is switch hosts or upgrade your plan. A dedicated IP, cloud hosting or some other type of increased resource allocation for managed WordPress hosting should help.
Optimize Your Site’s Content
Sometimes, your server runs just fine but you’re trying to fit too much content into your site—namely with photos. Photos are the single heaviest resource your website will try to load, and great websites use photos all over the place! How do you manage these things? Optimize your content. Of course, sometimes it’s not your photos but those darn render-blocking resources! I’m talking about things like those little bits of HTML code that start with
<iframe> from 3rd-party vendors like Mailchimp, Google Analytics, Facebook, Youtube, etc. Of course, tech company code snippets are pretty optimized, but loading those things can still slow your site down! Ever try to grab a recipe from Pinterest? You know exactly what I’m talking about.
Google Lighthouse gives you a great list of ways to speed up your site, though, and it comes bundled with every version of Google Chrome. Make sure you double check your speed insights for the mobile *and* desktop versions of your site!
The next thing to think about is the actual quality of the CMS you’re running. A CMS is a content management system, and chances are you’re here because you manage content! So let’s talk about it!
Too Much Content, Too Little Time
Does all of your content actually belong on the website? Doesn’t matter, your boss told you to put it there. Do you put the same content in a bunch of different places because you have a newsletter that’s about 12 announcements too long and then it also has to get posted to each social media channel individually because Hootsuite is messing up again and you are only on the free plan anyways?
The question I hear you shouting to the universe is, “Can’t I automate this? It’s 2021!” Fortunately, some CMS’s were built with churches in mind, so if you post something in one place, that exact same content goes out to a bunch of other places automatically, or it’s shared automatically with a service like Zapier. Automations and integrations won’t solve everything, but they’re still an important feature to look into when you’re considering which CMS to use.
I want to be clear, CMS’s are the things we’re talking about here, because a website is really anything that lives on the web that you can navigate to. Those Mailchimp landing pages you keep accidentally clicking on? Websites. Even though it’s a single page. But we’ll cover those in another post.
The Best Web Strategy has a plan for the future
Last thing to think about: How are you looking to grow your online presence? Are you talking about more ways to resource your congregation (devotional blog posts, podcasts, extra content, etc.) in the digital age? Hopefully! Did you read Brady Schearer’s whole thing about Nucleus and were like “Hm…that’s not a bad idea” but then you never got to it because you got busy doing your actual job? We’ve all been there.
I want to encourage you to take a moment to dream about what your church’s website could be. I used to hear that websites were “the digital lobby or front door to your church.” These days, they’re more like front doors+billboards+backstage passes+libraries. Websites—and the way users want to interact with them—are becoming increasingly intersectional and complex. Make sure you’ve not only thought about the Why and What of your website, but also the How: which drag and drop editor will you go with? Do any of the templates to choose from really matter? When looking for the best option for churches, why isn’t there a site builder designed specifically for you? These are all great questions that the Web Development Talent Group can help you think through!
So, if you need some help thinking about your church’s web strategy, or you just need help because redesigning the website for your church is a lot and you’re tired of being an army-of-one, don’t hesitate to reach out! Kingdom One has web experts who are here to help you think through all of this stuff, fast track the process and get you back to doing the thing you were hired to do. Or, if you’re ready to take the next step, discover the best website builder for churches (hint: it might not be WordPress). Now get back to that youth group curriculum!