Without a doubt, purchasing and creating a website is a big endeavour for any church. There are many important decisions to be made, the most important of which is choosing someone to develop your website for you.
This task can be daunting for a variety of reasons. What if you don't know any website developers? What if your church can't afford a good website? Or what if you don't want to hurt the feelings of a community member who currently helps update your website?
The great thing is that each of these uncertainties can be resolved. It is my hope that by asking a few key questions of your potential website developer before you get started, the task will become easier. In fact, I believe this preliminary work can make the whole process much more enjoyable.
With that being said, let's get started.
You want a website so easy to edit that you'll actually enjoy making updates.
Making changes to your website is important. When looking for a website developer don't only consider the design, but make sure to find out how easily you'll be able to make changes. Have them walk you through the editing process. Here's what to look for in an easy-to-edit website:
Don't be afraid to ask to test-drive a website your developer has created before committing to buy it. See how it works for you. Is it intuitive and user-friendly? If your answer is yes then you've overcome the first major hurdle in developing your website.
A good website enables you to share your story with the community.
It is important to make sure that your website has all the features that your community will need. A website can be an incredibly powerful communication tool, but only if the right features are available.
To determine your church's needs, it's important to consider both how you use your current website, as well as what tools would be helpful for your new site. Do some research, visit other churches' websites, and start asking your staff what tools they need the website to include.
These are the types of questions you will want to ask:
Once you have your list of needs, determine if your potential developer has previously created these features or has the capability to create them. Then confirm that the cost of developing these features will fit your budget.
A well-branded website is clean, inviting, and consistent with the rest of your church's communication.
Everything your church does, from the bulletins you print to the powerpoint slides you create, becomes part of your brand. A brand is simply a way for people to recognize you without seeing your name. And the best part is that you don't need to spend thousands of dollars with a marketing company in order to create a professional brand.
Creating a brand for your church can be as simple as deciding on a colour scheme, logo, and font. Once that is settled, make sure everything matches. Using a consistent brand will go a long way in conveying a more professional and reliable image for your church.
Here are a few simple ways to communicate your church brand:
Taking these simple steps will go a long way in improving the way people perceive your church.
Modern websites are like living organisms, requiring maintenance and care to continue to perform at peak efficiency.
Reliable and prompt support is crucial to the success of your website. 10 years ago, after a website was built it was acceptable for it to sit static for months, simply doing its job as a "digital brochure" for the church. Websites today are more powerful, but also require more attention.
A properly supported website is a website your community can rely on. Your next website should include a built-in support plan. Typically, a good support arrangement will include the following:
To know for sure you'll be in good hands, it may be worth asking your developer if you can contact existing clients to hear about their support experience. You will want to ask them questions such as how long it takes the developer to respond to emails or to fix a bug in the event of a problem.
It's time to end the cycle of throwing out your website every 5 years.
A common pattern with websites is to develop a new one every 3-5 years, or however long it takes the site to go out of style or become ineffective. Typically when you buy a website it feels shiny and new, but we all know that this feeling doesn't last nearly as long as it should.
It was for this very reason that we created Church OS. We were tired of watching churches get stuck in this cycle and spend unnecessary time and money. We wanted to be able to offer more. This is why we built our platform from the ground up, specifically developed as a church website management system.
With Church OS, your website would be built on a platform that is growing and improving on a daily basis. The concept is that your website operates on the same platform as a group of other church websites, but with each church maintaining its own unique content and design. Allowing each church to function on the same platform means that when one user reports a bug, that issue is fixed for everyone. Furthermore, when a feature is improved, all users benefit from that same improvement.
Additionally, since Church OS is looking to grow and attract new users, you can trust that as technology advances, so too will the capabilities of your website. In other words, 4 years after you launch your website it will have received 4 years of advancements. Therefore, no need to develop a brand new site every few years. Problem solved!