more thoughts about church websites

December 30, 2009 | 4 Comments

As I was working on the new aMS website this fall, I was curious about what information matters most to the typical visitor to a church website. I did an informal poll and got stats of the most visited pages from a handful of church websites. What follows (as I promised in a previous post about church websites) is what I learned from that data.

I should say this…there is nothing scientific about these results. The home page is by far the most trafficked page on every site. That’s assumed and it’s not included below. This is a limited sampling of churches. The majority, but not all, are located in Austin. The majority, but not all, comes from churches that are a few years old or less. Even so, I think these conclusions reveal wider trends that would apply to most church websites.

Most visited pages. These were the pages that were in the top 10 most visited pages in the majority of sites polled. They are listed in order of traffic as averaged out over multiple sites:

  1. Leadership: A page listing the leadership, usually the staff, of the church. This was in the top 10 on every site, and was the most visited page on several.
  2. Worship Services: A description of the service along with time and location. This page actually shared the same average ranking as Leadership, though it wasn’t the most visited page on any of the sites I sampled.
  3. Weekly Schedule: A page describing the weekly schedule or rhythm of the church beyond Sundays, usually in terms of other events that happen on a weekly basis. Not every site had a page like this, but it was popular for those that did.
  4. About: Some kind of general description of who a church is. This one is difficult to categorize because different churches frame this information in different ways.
  5. Calendar: Near the bottom of the top 10 on most pages, but consistent for those sites that have it is a calendar page. This differs from the weekly schedule in that it provides actual calendar dates for the upcoming days/weeks/months.
  6. Podcast: In the top 10 for every church that had a podcast, though usually ranked toward the bottom of the top 10.

Other popular pages. These pages weren’t as consistent though they were appeared in the top 10 on multiple sites. Again, these are in order of average popularity, though they were in the top 10 for less than half of the sites:

  1. New Here: A page for people who are new to, or finding information about, a church. On average was the third most popular page for churches that have it.
  2. Small Groups: Information about smaller groups that meet, using whatever terminology that church might use.
  3. Mission/Vision/Values: Almost always separate from the Beliefs page.
  4. Contact:: Most often, a general contact form of some kind.
  5. FAQ:: you know…Frequently Asked Questions. (Todd Hiestand wins the most honest title award for this… Questions Christians Ask
  6. Beliefs: The low ranking on this one surprised me.
  7. Affiliations: A listing of denominational or network affiliations.

Many of the clients I design for come to me because they want a new website, or a new design for their current one. Often, my first step is to help them think through what they want that site to accomplish. A good website doesn’t just look good, but it makes it easy to find the information or interaction that the end user is looking for. There are still a lot of bad church websites out there, in terms of both design and content. My hope in sharing this is to help churches take another look at how effective their website may be.

  • Thanks for taking the time to do this. It’s really helpful.

    The low rank of the Beliefs page doesn’t surprise me at all after reading Rodney Stark’s Rise of Christianity. People tend to join stuff based on relationships, networks, etc. and not on beliefs. That tends to come later.

  • Jen

    I have recently been asked by my church’s communications committee to research and reflect upon effective church websites. Do you have any specific sites that you believe to be most effective? Have you considered a post on the use of church nings? I appreciate stumbling upon your blog!

  • Jen,
    I don’t really have many thoughts beyond what I’ve blogged. It would be hard to say what is most effective, because I think it depends on what the church hopes will come about form it’s webpage. When I’m about to create a website for a client, I send them this questionnaire –http://www.strangeidealabs.com/questionnaire/ — I find that it’s as help for the client as it is for me, because it gives clarity on what they want to website to accomplish.

    This is an especially important question for churches, because some want their focus to be a website that provides information for those who are already part of the church, while others want it to be a way for those who aren’t part of the church to learn more about it. The difference is subtle, but it will affect a lot about how a site is organized etc.

    I don’t really have enough experience building anything with Ning to give you any input on that!

    Good luck in your research.

  • Hey John,
    Hope life, business and ministry is treating you very well.
    Good post!