15 Church Website Pet Peeves

It’s hard enough to get people to visit your website, WHY O WHY give them a reason to leave?  Why give members and visitors a reason to think you’re “rinky dink” ??

Yet, that’s exactly what many church websites do…. stuff they shouldn’t.  When I originally wrote this list we were in the process of selling our house. And these days, when you sell a house, all the experts say remove the clutter and “stage” the house …so that when people visit it, they can imagine themselves living there.  That’s pretty good advice for church websites too. The only thing different is that, unlike a house you want to get rid of, you DO want to personalize your church website.

Here’s my list of “Church Website Pet Peeves”

-with apologies to pets everywhere.

1. Looks bad on a smartphone.
They say 50% of all website viewing and 80% of all “get directions” requests are by people using their cellphones. If your site doesn’t have “responsive” design (adjusts to any size screen/device), then you need to get with the program. At the very least, the size of your text on my cellphone screen should not require a magnifying glass or zooming-in. “Responsive” design (code) makes you look like you know what you’re doing.

2.  Boring. (Duh)  If it doesn’t look good, don’t put it up. People don’t need one more reason to think church isn’t the place they want to call home.

3.  Picture of your (ugly) church building.
Most church buildings just aren’t that pretty.  =Your website is not your letterhead= And to some people, church buildings (and their smell) trigger post-traumatic flashbacks.

4.  Pictures of dull people not having fun.
Who wants to join THAT bunch?

5.  Scare tactics.
No, as a matter of fact, I WILL NOT be “ready” when Jesus comes back. (Romans 3:23)

6.  Music or Videos that start without warning.
Even good music or videos can scare the B’JEEBUS out you late at night when you forget that you had turned up your speakers to listen to your Aerosmith CD. Let people decide what they want to hear.

7. Money Money Money.
Some churches shove giving in their member’s faces. Is that the message you want visitors to receive? Yes, have an “online giving” button, and link to stewardship, but remember that many visitors are coming from churches where “all they ever did was ask for money or argue about it.”

8. Impossibly Tiny and Slippery Roll-over Menu Buttons.
How much eye-finger coordination should it take to get to Ministries -> Children -> Sunday School classes -> Schedule.  Note to menu designers…I’m not that coordinated and I keep clicking on the wrong stuff.  This is especially annoying when I try to access your site on my cellphone or tablet.

9. Pastor messages on the front page.
Blah blah blah. It’s not about YOU. Instead…welcome me with great design, upcoming events, and freshness, ….not boilerplate piety. While we’re on the subject of “a message from the pastor” –please write everything on your website to “sound” warm and inviting, not doctrinal.

10. “People” graphics you got off the web.
One local church here runs an ad in the paper showing a “one of their kids” in a bandana who I’ve also seen in an ad for Chevy trucks. Put your own people on the site. They’ll come see it.   Corollary:  Graphics that are wrong for your church. A
 web volunteer at my last church who edited our website used a photo of a sunrise with a mountain range in the foreground. We live in Florida (duh).

11. Homepages that don’t have the church’s address and contact TEXT INFO.
Sometimes you just need to find the church’s address or map, but so many churches make you hunt and peck for them.  Addresses in graphics cannot be indexed by search engines. Put the clickable address and clickable phone number in the top half of your home page, and again in the “footer” of every page.

12: Stop with the Generic Contact Forms!
If you really don’t want people to be able to email specific staff people, why then do you HAVE specific staff people?  They’re getting paid to be available, -make it so.

13. Out of date information.
“Come to our Picnic July 25” …and it’s September. 

14. Unfriendly looking staff photos. Stop with the Olan Mills yearbook “Can I Sell You a Used Car?” headshots of pastors and staff. Take photos of staff in ministry interacting with others.

15. Color-Challenged Design Choices
Some people are terrible at picking out paint, and the same goes for the colors of a website. Brown and Red a yucky colors on the web. Black backgrounds are for video-gamers. Use color-matched shades (many people don’t do a good job of matching complementary shades). Stick to a clean look and the “Design Rule of 3’s”  (1) A main color against (2) a white background, with (3) a color used for accent, with black text.)

For my full article on building a better website, and examples of bad ones, go to www.sundaysoftware.com/website.htm

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