Whenever we design a site, the website homepage is always the first thing we design. It sets the tone for the rest of the site; get the aesthetic or flow wrong here, and everything else will need to be changed, too.
Because of how important this page is, we spend a lot of time experimenting with colors and fonts and designs. Our designer spends a lot of time analyzing the current church website (if there is one), as well as the city and town that the church resides in and any other cultural markers that may be relevant.
This church, for instance, located in Grand Saline, TX, uses the local school colors to create familiarity with site visitors from the moment they arrive on the page.
It’s aspects like these that provide a subtle touch of familiarity to a website, decreasing the friction and increasing the subconscious association.
But we don’t do this with every website; if we did, it’d be boring and monotonous. Instead, we take a unique look at every church and see if we can come up with a plan that best fits that site.
It all begins with the homepage, though. Once we have that nailed, the rest of it falls into place.
What is a Website Home Page?
As the name implies, a website home page is the introductory page of any website. Whenever someone inputs your main URL, whatever you’ve designated as your “home page” will appear.
The purpose of your website will dictate which page is set as your home page. A blogger may have their blog (or posts) page as the home page. A photographer may choose to showcase their portfolio when people land on their site. It just depends on what they want their visitors to see first.
For most — especially churches — this page will be relatively static. Some of the info might change (like announcements or location info), but it should stay the same.
The average time spent on a website is 53 seconds, and most of that time will be spent on the homepage. People are trying to figure out what your church is all about, but with millions of possible results on the Google search results page, they won’t stick around for long.
For that reason, you’ll need to make the most of the time they are on your site to make your case as to why they should contact you. Otherwise, they’ll bounce to a website that makes a more convincing argument.
Disclaimer: The thing that should ALWAYS attract people to any church is their attachment to the Gospel. Events, fancy animations and giveaways are shallow at best, and dangerously misleading at worst. Make sure the Gospel is front and center, always.
What Every Church of Christ Homepage Needs
We take a lot of pride in the fact that every single website we design is custom-made and tailored to each individual church.
That being said, there are a few elements that we make sure to include every single time. Some of them are obvious, but most of them are only seen if you know what you’re looking for.
Here are a few things we make sure are on every homepage.
Apart from the visual design of a site, the headline is the very first thing your visitors will read. It communicates an instant message: Who is this church and what are they all about?
Your headline should be no more than about ten words, but try to think in terms of characters instead of words (since some words can be longer than others). Space is at a premium here, and so is your audience’s attention span.
When designing your headline, try to think of what actually describes your church the most. Don’t try to convey something you’re not.
If your church doesn’t have a lot of young people, then highlighting families may not be the wisest choice. Instead, maybe something along the lines of “We Love People Who Love God” may work better. Or something more blunt, like “God’s Word. Our Hearts.”
Don’t be surprised if this process takes you a long time to complete. You may go through several revisions before you find the phrase that most closely resonates with your church. That’s totally normal.
The point is to find a way to (a) describe your church and (b) pique the visitor’s interest with (c) as few words as possible.
Pictures of the Church
We ask every church to send us several pictures of their church “in action.”
What type of pictures aren’t exactly specified, but we generally ask for pictures of:
- Bible Classes
- External Shot
- Close up shot of preacher
That is not an exhaustive list by any means. Sometimes, if we’re familiar with a church, we’ll ask for specific pictures of their newly renovated area, or of their smaller, secondary adult classes.
We’ve even once asked for pictures of their parking lot because we knew that in their specific location, parking was at a premium. We wanted to make sure any visitors knew they wouldn’t be walking ten miles through busy city streets with their family to make it to worship services.
Whenever possible, we always want these pictures to include people. Pictures are great, but what visitors want to know is what these church members look like.
Can I identify with them?
Will I be “under-dressed” if I show up?
Do the men have any facial hair?
These questions may sound superfluous, but they actually play a huge role in making a visitor feel more comfortable. The less a visitor has to wonder what the actual experience will be of visiting your church, the more likely they are to visit in the first place.
Not to mention, images play a huge role in increasing your online visibility when uploaded to your Google Business Profile (another place we can use these pictures).
Let’s say that someone has decided to visit your congregation. Maybe they’re visiting from the area, or maybe they’re just looking to branch out (great!).
Do they know where to go?
In one study, more than 75% of consumers checked out a business website before actually visiting it in person. If you don’t have your business’ location clearly stated on your website, they won’t know where to go if/when they decide to visit you.
One of the best ways to do this is by implementing a Google map on your homepage — preferably, in your footer. Doing this will ensure your map is on as many pages as possible. It only takes a few minutes to do, and it can go a long way in improving your local SEO efforts.
A map (or clickable directions) on your website is important in a world where almost 68% of all web visits are mobile. People are looking for churches like yours, and they’re doing it on their mobile device.
Why not make it easier on them to actually visit you by putting your location right in the homepage where they can find it?
Stating your beliefs on your homepage can be tricky.
Some people opt for the long, drawn-out version that lists everything they do every single service. And why they do it. And what they’re there for.
Some people even spend most of that time explaining all the things they’re against, and almost no space on what they’re actually for.
I have nothing against these long explanations; in fact, I actually love it when churches do them (provided they’re actually encouraging instead of designed to turn people away).
But what I would rather see from most churches is a shorter statement of their core beliefs on their website, with links extending to articles or pages elsewhere that has more information.
Most churches we work with will include their belief in baptism as being essential to salvation somewhere on their homepage. That’s great, but there’s not nearly enough space on any homepage ever to include everything the Bible says on the subject, is there?
Instead, a few hundred words describing your core beliefs with 3-4 hyperlinks elsewhere is the way to go. It increases time on site and improves the site’s navigation.
Plus, if you pair it with a call-to-action, you might even generate an email or two where people begin to ask questions about why you believe what you believe.
You would be surprised how many churches don’t really want you to find them.
We recently completed a study on 53 church websites. Afterwards, we emailed this study out to all the individual churches that we used so that they could know about the study and request their own private audit to see their exact data.
The only problem was that when we actually started looking for en email address to send the study to, a few churches didn’t have anything at all listed on their website. We could write them a letter or call them if we wanted to, but email is way easier for the average person.
I get why some churches don’t, though. If your church is anything like the one where I’m at, a healthy percentage of emails at the church inbox are either spam or people asking for money. Many don’t even read their emails.
But you still need one, you just need a strong spam filter in place first.
It seems like a no-brainer, but when you’re finishing your homepage setup, make sure you have your contact info there somewhere. It’s an easy thing to overlook, but it can spell trouble for your online presence.
Links to Internal Pages
As stated above, your website homepage is your first shot at introducing yourself to site visitors.
But it’s not your only shot.
In reality, a lot of people would love to visit more pages on your site and learn more about you…if they only knew where to go. Include a few hyperlinks on your homepage and you’ll be able to direct them to all the relevant information they need.
We’re big fans of clean site navigation, and try to adhere to the “three-click rule” whenever possible. This rule states that it should take a visitor no more than three clicks to reach any page on your website. This makes it easier on humans to find your info, but it also greases the SEO wheels for Google to crawl and index on your site.
Failure to have any kind of internal linking whatsoever results in “orphan pages,” or pages on your site that aren’t connected to anything else. They’re nearly impossible to find unless you’re actually looking for them — as such, they don’t really help your site’s SEO much at all.
The Perfect Church Website Homepage Formula Doesn’t Really Exist
Spoiler alert: The “perfect formula” for anything doesn’t really exist at all.
That’s because every church we work with is unique, which means that every church website we will ever build is unique. Although certain elements need to be carried over from site to site, there is no formula that always equals success.
Instead, when you’re sitting down to design your church website, try to think of what makes sense for your audience. Then, make it as simple as possible. Then, make it even simpler. The harder it is for your site visitors to navigate, the more they’re likely to leave.
With a few parts in place though, you can give your church website the best possible chance of success.