When preparing for a job interview, the applicant researches the role they applied for and builds mental notes to demonstrate how their education, skills, and experience make them the perfect fit for the position. On the day of the interview, the applicant showers, brushes their teeth, and puts on their finest clothes, all in an effort to make a great first impression. Building a church website follows a similar process because, for many, it’s the first impression of the church and maybe even Christianity. Churches, can you feel the weight of that? And if that doesn’t sound daunting enough when building a website, data shows that every website has an extremely short window to make that first impression. How short? According to the Taylor & Francis Group, website visitors only need 50 milliseconds to rate the visual appeal of a website. Savvy churches reading this post are wondering what makes a visually appealing website. Thankfully, the answer is simple – literally. According to Google Research, users love simple and familiar designs. Even when the content is excellent, most site visitors will never read it if the website has high visual complexity.
Keep It Simple
When talking with web designers, terms such as “low visual complexity” and “primary focal point” get thrown around to define what helps to create a great first impression on your website. Ironically, using those terms can be confusing and may contribute to diffusing the focus. Try this exercise before ever building a single website page – imagine the church website only had one page and one message; what message would it look like, and what would it convey? That is how to keep low visual complexity and create a primary focal point.
Single Message: Finding one sentence to convey on the landing page of a website is easy when churches allow their mission and vision to guide them. Think of it as a way to answer the question that almost every visitor to the website has – can this church help me? Are they looking for God? Are they looking to grow deeper in their faith?
Single Focus: Using a high-quality photographic representation of the church provides low complexity and reinforces the message. Avoid using a carousel of images (image sliders) as event advertisements or a collage approach. Remember, the church only has 50 milliseconds to capture the site visitor; what’s the main image you want them to see?
Keep It Consistent
Just as important as keeping it simple is to keep it consistent. Each page should “feel” and respond with a cohesive look. One way to ensure consistency is to establish branding guidelines for the church. Branding guidelines define the church’s standards and rules to maintain consistency across all communication channels, especially the website. A branding guideline establishes the visual, verbal, or written communication framework. Document the church’s common language to describe ministries, like “join the life” to get in a Life Group. Clearly define the types of images the church uses to keep each page consistent. The branding guidelines need to determine the types of fonts allowed, which logo to use, and how to use them.
The church website is so much more than an online forum that provides an online calendar, a way to get people to sign up for an event, or provide financial support; it’s a vital outreach tool. While these elements are necessary, they should not be the focal point. Research shows that websites only have 50 milliseconds to make a great first impression and capture the visitor. Churches wanting visitors to stay and browse their site must keep the layout simple, provide a focal point on the page, and create and maintain branding guidelines to ensure consistency throughout. Making anything simple is never easy, but it is always worth the effort and investment. It’s time for churches to invest in the first impression online.short url: