De-mystifying web design - Part 2. Preparing your content

De-mystifying webdesign - Part 2. Preparing your content

Developing the content is the biggest and hardest job when it comes to building a website and the first thing is to work out why you want a website. There are two main “don’t’s”:

1.    Don’t try to create an out-and-out evangelistic tool - there are plenty of purely evangelistic websites so don’t try to compete with these.

2.    Don’t focus on the church members – they will soon find their way around through regular use they will only normally want to access the home, news, and calendar pages anyway.

The primary purpose is to introduce visitors to the church so they know what to expect before they visit and are already comfortable when they walk through the doors. Look at other websites and discuss them with others in your church to decide what you like and don’t like.

Next, start to list key things you want to have on your site and then group them. Don’t get too ambitious and remember that a five page website that is up to date is far better than a large one that has been neglected.

Your menu/page structure could end up like this.

  • Home page: This should have as little text on it as possible. A great photo or two, a brief welcoming paragraph, details of the next service or a major piece of news and clear links to other pages.
  • About us: The key items here are: when we meet – times of regular activities; where we are – include a postcode and directions or link to a google map; what we believe; profiles of key people. By all means include information on the church’s history but keep it short – just because it interests you does not mean it will interest everyone.
  • Mission: You may not use the title ‘mission’ but this is where your main ‘missional activities’ will sit. List all the coffee clubs, kid’s activities, craft groups - whether they are regular or occasional. Don’t forget to include contact details of those running each activity (check the individuals are happy for these to be on the website first!). Don’t put too much detail about specific events as they go out of date too quickly - that is for the ‘News’ section’.
  • News and events: This page is the one that should need regular updating. Up load your most recent newsletter (include a couple from the weeks before as well) and build in a calendar.
  • Contact details: Even though these may be included elsewhere it is important to have a clearly labelled page listing the key contact details.

Scrolling or multiple pages? This is a decision you will have to make. Most websites have lots of pages each with a small amount of information on them however people’s habits are changing. The use of tablets means that many people prefer fewer long pages so rather than having a page for each of your different activities consider putting them one below the other.

Now get on with drafting the text. Think carefully about what you are saying and how this will be understood by a non-Christian visitor. Text must be short and to the point as visitors will only want a flavour of what the church is about. A good rule of thumb is to write out what you want to say and then halve it. If you have different people preparing different pages then make sure that the style is consistent in terms of the tense, level of formality etc. On most pages try to write text that will not go out of date quickly – anything that is time dependant should be on one or two key pages so that these are the only ones that need regular updates.

Good photos can be the difference between a good and bad website. Some help give clear information about the church but others are needed to break up a text and lighten the look of a site.

These will probably come from two sources:

  • ‘Stock images’ – these are generic photos that you can buy the rights to (the ones in this these blog posts come from Shutterstock).
  • Personal images – these are ones specific to your church and area that you have taken or been given by members. Spend some time amassing a stockpile of images that you may want to use. Remember to get parents’ permission if children are readily identifiable.

Try and get a distinct style of images and avoid mixing photos with clip art and don’t be tempted to use ones that you do not have the rights to use.

Only once you have your general structure, your text and a collection of images should you carefully start to actually build the site carefully being consistent about fonts and font sizes. Most providers such as Weebly or Wix allow you to create duplicate pages so once you have got your first page correct make a copy and then edit for the new topic – that way you will carry the formatting from page to page.

Before long you will get the hang of it and be putting together a very decent website for your church. Soon you will be wanting to add a few enhancements that we will look at in the next post.

Nick Jones