The first steps in designing a website are determining the purpose and the audience. After that, you need to decide how to organize the information. On the web, you normally think of tabs, or sections. On this website, lots of time went into settling on the seven tabs in that blue bar beside the logo. Once I got that settled, I could get to work.
There are two common website structure which are bad--which aren't designed with the end-user in mind.Administrative structure
. Some websites are designed around the church administrative structure. That's certainly been true of denominational websites, which too often include a tab for each department of the national headquarters. But sites need to be designed for users--for persons who have no clue about your political structure.Purpose statement
. I've also noticed that "purpose-driven" churches love to organize their website around a purpose statement (or mission statement, or vision statement, or whatever you want to call it). That way, they can claim, "Everything we do fits into our purpose." Well, good for you.
The thing is, a web surfer shouldn't need to know your purpose statement to find what he's looking for. Besides, the elements of a purpose statement may seem obscure or meaningless to an outsider, especially a person not savvy with church lingo.
For example, suppose you fit every page of your site into these four tabs: Win, Build, Equip, Send. A web visitor is left wondering, "Which tab tells me if they have a nursery on Sunday morning?" A purpose-driven structure is designed with church leadership in mind, not potential visitors (even most typical regular attenders would be confused). So how should you organize your site?
In developing templates for the AtMyChurch.com
service, I visited and studied scores of church websites, including those on the lists for the Largest Churches, Most Innovative Churches, and Fastest-Growing Churches in the country. Nearly all used a standard navigation bar, and these are the most common links I observed:
- About Us
- Contact Us
- If You're New (lots of variations on that theme)
- What happens on Sunday
If I were looking for a new church, links like those would be most helpful to me. Despite a lifetime in the church, I get confused by sites built around a mission statement. They make me think too much, and for no good reason. My own church's website
When I designed the site for Anchor Community Church--a fairly new church of about 120 people--I used these sections:
- About Us (with five pages: FAQ, Our Story, Doctrinal Beliefs, Denomination, Staff)
- What We Do (Sundays, Big Events, Other Stuff)
- Photos (I have lots of photos from church events)
- Contact Us
To summarize: keep it simple, and organize for the user.