In our last article covering church website design, we discussed “The Landing Page.” You’ll remember that I tied it with why your website isn’t working. It’s true that a poorly designed home page will shuffle viewers off of your site, this is called Bounce Rate in the analytics world.
You may also hear from around the web, that one goal of your site, should be to keep your viewers on your website as long as possible, reducing your bounce rate. I’m inclined to promote this as well if it wasn’t for the two primary audiences that your church website should be tailored too. First-time visitors & your long-standing members.
You see, I’m in the train of thought, that your long-standing members will give your website more grace than first-time visitors, but before we get into this, let me clarify the two main church demographics.
Long time visitor – a church member/attendee that has been attending your weekend/weekly services, and/or events, for several weeks or even years; that visits your page at least once a week looking for weekend sermons, events, etc.…
First time visitor – a potential church member/attendee that has yet to attend your weekend/weekly service, and/or events; that is visiting your website to see if your church is a good fit for him/her and their family.
Remember the saying – “first impressions are lasting impressions”? If your home page has done its job, to keep both visitors engaged, that’s awesome. Congratulations, but now what? Now your long time visitors will know where to find the podcasts, sermon notes, events page, etc., because they have visited your page at least once per week, for the last several weeks, maybe years. See a pattern here?
Now your first-time visitors have yet to fully engage with your site (and your ministry). They’re looking for different information than your longtime members. They’re searching for a location, parking, atmosphere, images of your services, dress attire, are you Kirk Franklin or Hillsong Worship? Everything that a first time guest to your physical church would want to know. In developing so many church websites, we’ve found that almost all church websites have this information. But, it’s scattered throughout their site.
Your longtime members don’t really bother with this info, because they know it. They have their parking space mapped out as well as their seat in the auditorium/worship center. The first-timers have no idea.
Several years ago (and I do mean several years ago), my family was vacationing in Southern California, you know the Disney thing, but Sunday, regardless of vacation, was the Lord’s day. We decided to visit Saddleback Church, it was the height of “The Purpose Driven Life” – Rick Warren. So, being the techie that I am, I visited their site, http://saddleback.com, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what to wear, where to park, what about my little ones? Nothing. I found their phone number and called, but c’mon, who’s going to answer the church phone on game day. Right?
So my family showed up in our Sunday best, me in my suit, Jazmin (my better half) dressed up, and the kiddos too. Parked way passed down the hill, didn’t know how to check in our kids, we were running late. Horrible experience. We then saw people in flip-flops and shorts by the outdoor cafe. Needless to say, we stood out. Guest services were incredible and helped us out. We decided to head back to the hotel, get comfy, and visit the next service. It was great.
Again, this was a very long time ago when church websites, as in many other industries, weren’t paid much attention too. Saddleback is like “It” when it comes to their online presence and communications now. They rock.
So what does my vacationing have to do with website development? Well, think first impressions. If you’re a first-time guest at your church, you have someone welcoming them. They see your kiddos and take you to the children’s registration area. Maybe even take you to the front of the line. Offer you coffee, etc.…
Same goes for your website. Your website’s first time visitor needs that same care, but for most churches, it’s an afterthought.
But, that’s alright. Start, where you’re at.
I mentioned earlier that most of this information tends to be on your site somewhere. You just need to be directed to it. There needs to be one place on your site where the first time visitor knows to click and find all the information they need to make their first time visit to your physical church – a great success. Enter, the “I’m New Here page.”
The I’m New Here Page
This link should be prominently displayed in your main menu. It should stand out. Easy to read. Especially for your first-time visitor on your site. This page should contain:
- Parking Info.
- Children’s Check Info.
- Teenybopper Services
- What to wear (come as you are is churchy and doesn’t say anything)
- What praise and worship are like
- Perhaps a recent pastor’s teaching
- Service Times
- Worship center location (big churches)
- Coffee place (we love coffee in the Campos household)
- Prayer availability
- Service length
- What services are like (perhaps images/ video)
- Core Beliefs/Statements of Faith (link to them)
- Size of church
- Senior Pastors/Teaching Pastors
Think of being a first-time guest at your church and these questions will naturally come up. Maybe even others particular to your ministry. Several of these items can be found throughout your site. So you can always reference them within your I’m New Here page. However, a short informative, paragraph, can answer half of these items needed for your I’m New Here page.
The other half, put them on this page, have one easy place to find all the info needed. This is a great first impression for your first-time visitor online. If your site is appropriately laid out and easy to navigate, your rewards will speak for themselves.
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