This week I’m answering a question received through my reader survey:

“What does my church website need?”

First, if you’re in charge of a church website, don’t assume that you need the following:

  • Sermon audio
  • Podcast audio (which is often just a rehash of the sermon audio)
  • Event calendar
  • Electronic donation form
  • Nice photo of the steeple (where applicable).

Don’t assume anything. Instead ask yourself three questions to get started.

1. Why do you have a website?

Why does your church have a website in the first place? Is it to…

  • Attract visitors?
  • Get online donations?
  • Showcase sermons?
  • Help people be disciples of Jesus Christ?
  • Gawk at your church building?

This is an important question that you must answer before building a new church website or auditing an existing one.

Take Action

  • Take a minute or two and list three specific reasons why your church has a website in the first place, each reason being about 7-14 words.

2. Who do you want using your website, and why?

Consider who you intend to visit your site, and who is currently visiting your site.

A few weeks ago, I explained how you can quickly come up with some personas who represent intended visitors to your site. Here are some personas I’ve come up with just for demonstration purposes for this hypothetical church website:

Seeking Susan

  • She’s recently visited the church, but doesn’t know much about it.
  • She’s looking for some good friends and doesn’t care about the church building.

Doubting Thomas

  • He’s never visited the church, but works with Faithful Fred, so he’s heard Fred mention his church.
  • He’s turned off by religious-sounding terms, but is looking for reasonable answers to life’s hard questions.
  • He’s looking for authenticity, and doesn’t care what a building looks like.

Faithful Fred

  • He’s been a member of the church for several years.
  • He’s actively involved, but he’s also busy and wants to know what’s going on.
  • He knows what the church building looks like, and doesn’t need a visual reminder.

If these personas sound like stereotypes, well, in a sense, they are. They’re just personas of who you intend to reach. Notice, I put Seeking Susan first, Doubting Thomas second, and Faithful Fred last. How you answer the ‘Why’ question above will affect how you order your personas.

Now, do these personas match who is using your site? If you aren’t conducting user surveys or analytics, it may be impossible to know. Ideally, the more data you have the better, but for now, let’s just stick with our personas and who we intend to reach.

Take Action

  • Spend a few minutes coming up with three personas of your intended audience.
    • Start with someone in the middle who should be your greatest audience, and then create two personas that represent more outlier cases.

What do you want your users to do and why?

Now that we know the reasons why we have a website, and who we intend to reach, we now need to answer what we want our intended users to do.

Take Action

Take a few minutes to write down three things you want each persona to do. Write it out in a format like:

I want [persona] to [do something] so that [reason].

Here’s an example of what it could look like for Seeking Susan:

  • I want Seeking Susan to find information about the Women’s ministry so she can get plugged in and make lasting friendships.
  • I want Doubting Thomas to read more about the Gospel to place his faith in Christ.
  • I want Faithful Fred to download events to his phone’s calendar so he can stay involved in the various ministries.

Now what?

After these exercises, you should have:

  1. A short purpose statement of why your church website exists.
  2. Three personas of who your target audience is.
  3. Three things you want each persona to do, totalling nine.

Now, go audit your existing site, and see if it now matches your site.

This post is a response to a question received through my reader survey. Got a question you’d like me to answer in a post? Please ask your question below and I’ll try to answer it as soon as I can.

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