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How to know when your church needs a new website

I am currently working on a number of church website projects. For each of them, I am taking a different approach. Some are in need of a quick facelift while others need a total do-over.

What a church requests of me, however, is not always what I recommend. Occasionally, a church will ask for a brand new website. Then, after reviewing what they're working with, we decide we can do a lot with what's already there. Other times, to be frank, a church client is unaware of how outdated or ineffective their website is.

How do you know when your church needs a new website? When should you start from scratch?

Here are five signs that your church website likely needs an overhaul.

1. It's not reaching people.

At its best, a church website is a tool for outreach. It pops up in Google searches and captures visitors' attention long enough for them to explore beyond your homepage.

If people can't find you because your site isn't ranking highly in searches, that's a problem. It could just be a question of optimizing your website for search engines, especially if your website is newer. It is possible though that the very design of your website is getting in the way of your ranking.

If you're ranking in searches but you're not seeing any visitor interaction on or from your website, that could be an indication of a high bounce rate. Your bounce rate represents the percentage of visitors who enter your site and then leave rather than continuing to view other pages. Maybe your content isn't engaging. Or you're not offering sufficient visual cues or calls to action. It could even be that your website is not user-friendly in all browsers and on all devices. (You can discover your bounce rate by looking at your analytics.)

2. It's old.

The average lifespan of a website is 2 years and 7 months.

Rest assured, you don't need to overhaul your website that frequently as long as you keep up with content generation and regular maintenance. But I often come across church websites that are between five and ten years old.

Technology moves quickly and a website that hasn't changed structurally and in design in over five years is not helping your church as much as it should. In fact, it is likely that in some ways it's doing your church a disservice.

3. It's slow or not secure.

No one is going to wait around for your website to load. We have grown too accustomed to websites that we can access instantly.

Your website should indicate to your visitors that your church is relevant to their lives. A slow website tells them that you—not just your website—are behind the times.

We also are no longer comfortable engaging with websites that are not obviously secure. You should have an SSL certificate (meaning your website loads as HTTPS instead of HTTP). And if you are frequently experiencing security issues, you should start over. It will only get worse, never better.

4. It's difficult to navigate.

I am working on an audit of a church website that at first glance was very attractive. Then, as I began to explore its secondary pages, I became thoroughly confused. Their navigation made little sense, leaving me unsure of where I should go next or where to find the information I needed. Furthermore, years of adding pages on top of pages had made their website "overstuffed" and overwhelming.

If the feedback you get is that people can't find things on your website, it could be that they're just not looking. But it also could be that your website is overly complex and needs to be seriously trimmed down.

5. It's difficult to manage.

I hear from too many churches that they find their websites difficult to update or that they hire someone external to make the smallest of changes. That should never be the case!

Today, there are many wonderfully user-friendly and affordable web-building tools and platforms. You should feel empowered to make changes to your website—and to do it with ease.

If you've read through this list and recognize your church in one or several of these signs, shoot me an email. I'd be happy to take a look at your website and make a recommendation for the way forward.

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