Designing a website can seem like a big, scary undertaking. Perhaps you have some design skills or perhaps you are tech savvy and have been given the task to design a website for your church or ministry. But what does it take? What is needed in a church website? What tools should I use for this? What features do I need? If you are feeling overwhelmed by these questions, this ultimate church website design guide is here to show you how to design a website that will impress your church! So get ready, buckle your seat belt, you’re on track to become a church website pro in no time!
How To Design A Website That Will Impress Your Church
Excellence! Is what the church stands for…
However, what happens if you don’t know how to design a website, but you need a website for your church?
Never underestimate the importance of your website to new visitors. It represents the church. Your Homepage is the online entrance. Do you have “welcoming ushers” at your website entrance? In the online world, it’s easy to “turn around and walk away.”
A new visitor to your website takes 5-8 seconds to decide if he/she will stay or leave. If a guest doesn’t feel welcome, he/she will leave and never return. You know how to make strangers comfortable in your church, but what about making them welcome on your website?
Who is this design guide for?
If you have:
- A church website or need a church website
- Little or no coding skills
- Little or no formal design education
- Little or no experience in the web design industry
Then this ultimate church website design guide is for you! You will learn how to design a website, from start to finish!
There are three main factors for creating a great website
- How to design a website following design principles
- How to write content for your website
- What content is needed for your website
This ultimate church website design guide focuses on the principles of how to design a website. It will show you what you need and how to apply it, when designing a website.
You don’t have to create your website from scratch. There are church website companies that provide the foundation for you to build on.
Why should a church website company be part of your “designing” team?
Two reasons: excellence and expertise.
Third reason: cost effectiveness.
Everything you do, you do unto the Lord. A lot of preparation goes into your Sunday service. Part of this preparation is cleaning the church. Tidying all the cables the worship team requires is a mission on its own. Then there are the restrooms, the gum under the seats, the nursery room…
Imagine a cluttered Sunday service…empty boxes in the aisles…sticky pews…dusty pulpit…people tripping over cables…
Sometimes that is what a church’s website looks like.
Excellence and expertise
There is an easy solution. Your website can portray the same excellence your local church building does – even with the lack of knowledge and experience. A church website company has the experience and knowledge to provide you with everything you need to know how to design a website…a website unique to your church.
Marketing budgets in churches are often limited. There are so many other urgent needs that the church website is often last on the financial priority list. Although it is a priority, funds are limited.
The solution: You don’t need to use a web designer that will cost you thousands of dollars. Follow basic design principles when using a stellar pre-designed template to learn how to design a website for yourself, and your church website will be amazing.
Instead of spending hours online trying to figure out how to design a website, this guide and the website tutorials will save you time. The heavy lifting is done…just follow the instructions.
How To Design A Website: The Basic Design Principles
So what’s the first step in knowing how to design a website? Where do you start? The five vital questions to ask when choosing a website company for your church, are:
- Does the website company offer free hosting?
- Do they migrate your old website for free?
- Can you register your domain with the church website company?
- Are their tutorials helpful and up-to-date?
- What kind of support do they offer?
In the physical world, you need a church building, a space to operate your church from. Your website needs “space” on the internet. A web hosting service provides this service.
It is a service that you normally pay for. However, there are church website companies that offer free hosting services.
Birds migrate to warmer areas when seasons change. When your church moves to a new building, your church content moves from the old building to the new.
The same applies when your church changes from one hosting service to another. Your website must be moved to the new service provider. It’s called migration.
This service should be offered for free and will be a huge help, especially for those who aren’t very familiar with how to design a website, themselves.
Your church is located at a physical address. Guests and church members find your church by going to that address. On the Internet, the domain name of your website is its address. When visitors type in your domain name, they land on your church website.
Like a physical address, a domain name is unique to that specific web location. Therefore, you need to register your domain name. Domain registrations need to be renewed each year.
Certain web hosting companies provide free domain registration for the first year. It is convenient to register your domain with your web hosting provider.
Although it is not essential, it is good practice to have the domain name the same as your church name, when possible. In other words, use your church name for the domain name too.
It is frustrating when a company provides outdated website design tutorials. It defeats the purpose of a tutorial—which is to provide step-by-step instructions “How to…”
Excellence is in the details. Up-to-date website design tutorials will guide you step-by-step through all aspects of how to design a website.
Sometimes, even a solid tutorial may be difficult to understand. Then live phone support, email, and chat options should be available to you with tech support and representatives that are experienced with how to build a website, themselves.
The company’s telephone number, email address, and chat box should be placed where it’s easy to find. A chat box can have a link on the menu bar or a popup to the side of the screen.
Use the phone or chat box for immediate assistance. When you need assistance on how to design a website, you need it now, not three days or a week later.
Go ahead and test the expertise of the support you receive as well as the reaction time of the church website company.
The Features You Need To Design A Website
When learning how to design a website, you also need to learn what to include on your website. Your website should have the following features. It is beneficial to your congregation, new visitors, and for staff and volunteers.
Everyone uses email. It is one of the most convenient ways to communicate in a personal manner. Your church needs various email addresses.
Set up email addresses by job, function or department. Don’t use individual’s names. People leave. When someone moves on, you won’t have to contact everyone with the change of email address. For example email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org instead of email@example.com.
Keep this in mind for the email address of the pastor, priest, bishop, reverend, or minister.
Choose easy to remember email addresses. Use an email address that is easy to associate with the specific function or department. For example, firstname.lastname@example.org is better than email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Set up email addresses for the administration/office, youth, worship, women’s ministry, men’s ministry, marriage, counseling, Bible school, outreach, housekeeping, prayer, media, children’s ministry, security, and other ministries.
Set up email addresses for multiple destinations. For example, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. These emails are delivered to everyone in that group list.
Add a personal touch with key leaders and use their names. They are likely to be around for years. Keep in mind that guests may want to contact the pastor/priest, but not know their name.
Add your general email address to the Contact page on your website. Remember to add relevant email addresses to printed materials.
Calendar and events
Having a calendar and events on your church website keeps your congregation and visitors informed of what’s happening at church.
Use it the same way you would you use your personal calendar. Add all the important dates:
- Church services
- Outreach events
- Seasonal celebrations
- Special events
- Ministry related events (e.g. worship weekend, youth camp)
- Bible school events (e.g. enrollment, introductory meeting, certification celebration)
- Social events
Audio/video playlist or sermon builder
Here are 8 Reasons why you should post your sermons online.
- Sermons are valuable content. By posting it on your website, you are reaching more people. Your sermon is now available to anyone who has internet access.
- Members who cannot attend a specific service won’t miss it, especially a topic series.
- There are people who cannot physically attend church due to health or other reasons. An audio sermon is a means to reach them.
- Your congregation can listen to the sermon again. This is invaluable especially with deep sermons.
- Your sermon can be shared with family and friends. When a message touches your heart, you want to share it with your loved ones. A link online makes this possible.
- Visitors, guests, and non-believers have access to an archive of sermons.
- It is easy to access previous sermons.
- A convenient way to distribute your sermons.
The best file format for saving your digital audio files is MP3, since it is 100% universal. In other words, everybody can download and play the file. AAC format is restricted to Apple computers or computers that run iTunes, and WMA format only works with Windows computers.
Why do you need podcasting if you have audio or video playlists?
- Edison Research survey data shows that 57 million Americans use podcasts. That is about 21% of the country, or the same number of Americans that use Twitter. From 2015 to 2016, podcast listening growth increased with 23%. Most people use smartphones and tablets to listen to a podcast.
- Podcasting allows listeners to subscribe to your sermons and other teachings. It is convenient for them. They no longer need to go to your website each week to manually download the audio. It automatically downloads for them.
- No longer will they miss a sermon or teaching.
- It is a great tool to reach younger members. Statistics show that people, ages 12 and up listen to podcasts.
How many podcasts should you load per week? About 69% of podcast listeners will listen to 5 or fewer shows per week. In-car commutes and gym workout sessions are popular times to listen to a podcast.
A blog is probably one of the most underused tools available to church websites. Blog posts are information-based content presented as text articles, with images, videos, audio or any combination thereof. It is the ideal tool to add value for your congregation, with regularity. Consider these areas:
- Bible studies
- Church social events
- Church news
It allows readers to contribute by commenting on the posts and giving feedback on what others have written. It fosters relationships and builds the community.
Blogging draws readers to your website. Search engines love blogs because new content is added on a regular basis, ideally daily or weekly. If you can’t publish daily or weekly, then publish at the interval you can. Publishing content on a consistent basis is more important than the frequency you do it.
Microsoft Word has a great blog post template that publishes directly to your blog.
Add categories and tags to your blog posts to make it easier for readers to find the topics they are searching for.
- Categories: Use the categories to group your main topics together. Six to ten categories are ideal.
- Tags: Tags group content from multiple categories.
Tithing & donations
Gone are the days when shopping meant you had to physically go to the store. It is now common practice to shop online and pay digitally, via your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Our younger generation uses smartphones for almost everything.
Statistics show that 10-25% of Christians tithe. How many of the ‘tithers’ in your church are millennials? With more and more people using a digital payment method, your website should have a tithing and donations button.
There are many options for an online tithing solution for churches. You’ll want to look for a company that not only is built for churches, but also has no set up fees and low transaction fees.
Integrate a map on your website to make it easy for new visitors to find your church.
Google has released a new feature to Google Maps. By adding a location in Google Calendar, you can now access your upcoming events under My Places in Google Maps.
Map integration is a great tool for members who have entered the Sunday service and other church activities to their Google Calendar and Maps. When they share the calendar event with friends or family, the church location is also shared.
Important Aspects To Keep In Mind When Designing Your Website
Easy drag-and-drop design tools
The easy drag-and-drop design tools, combined with WYSIWYG editing, enables anyone to design a website. You don’t need a course in how to design a website or memorize the technical jargon.
With these design tools, you click and drag the specific object to the relevant area on your website page with your mouse. By releasing the mouse button, the object drops onto the page.
When you look at guides on how to design a website, most of them will talk about the need to learn code like HTML and CSS. WYSIWYG stands for “What You See Is What You Get” and is one of the best features when designing your website, since it’s real live editing without having to know code!
In other words, while you are designing and editing your website, it is immediately visible. For example, when you choose the background color, you see the result of different backgrounds in real time.
WYSIWYG is a great time-saving tool. When you are satisfied with your choice, save it and move on to the next item.
Easy updates for security and functionality
For your website to function properly, you need regular updates. It is a good security measure to keep your website updated to the latest version.
Easy, understandable tools have clear instructions on how to update. Usually, it gives you an update message alert. All you have to do is click the button for the update to commence.
Embedded plugin integration
For a layman who doesn’t know anything about web design, plugins are one of the best tools to use. A plugin is add-on software that extends functions or adds additional features to your website. Install and activate the desired plugin with the click of a button.
Plugins remove the complexity of features required on your website. For example:
- An editorial calendar plugin allows you to schedule blog posts in advance.
- A good SEO plugin simplifies the optimization of your website/blog for search engines.
- A Google Analytics plugin allows you to track the metrics on your website with ease.
- A security plugin helps to safeguard your website against cyber-attacks.
Whatever your website needs, someone has created a plugin for it. It is impossible for one company to create all the plugins you could possibly need. Hence, having the feature to integrate third-party plugins allows you to install plugins with the specific solution you require, irrespective of who developed it. This way, you aren’t limited to the plugins the church website company offers and another developer’s plugin can be integrated into your website.
Integrated graphics and graphics editor
Perhaps the first thing that most people think of when it comes to learning how to design a website, is how to do graphic design. Graphics improve your readers’ experience. They optimize the presentation of information for a reader. Graphics educate, entertain and emotionally affect a reader.
Examples of graphics:
- Family trees
Graphic designers have the techniques and tools to create beautiful graphics. For the average person with no graphic design background, adding the properly sized graphics or adding text to graphics can be too complex and intricate.
An integrated graphics editor simplifies this process. It is a built-in image-editing software. In other words, you can conveniently manipulate or add text to any graphics. It is not necessary to use external software that you must pay for.
A mobile responsive site
Statistics show that 97% of millennials are mobile users. An interesting fact is that 20% of millennials don’t use desktops at all. The forecast for 2017 is that worldwide mobile users will reach 4.77 billion, with 266 million in the United States, alone. People ages 35-54 are multi platform users. If you want to reach all age groups, it is obvious that your church website should be mobile-friendly.
The template used for your website influences how mobile responsive your website can be. A website is displayed differently on different screens. Test the responsiveness of your website on a computer, a tablet, and smartphone.
Practical Tips On How To Design A Website For Church
Typography: fonts and font sizes
The font and size you use influences the readability of your website. Screen sizes differ. Reading on your mobile phone creates a different experience than reading on your tablet. Computer screens vary in size, as well, and difference in lighting is something to consider, too. Be sure to take a look at The Importance Of Practical Typography Design for more resources on typography.
One of the first lessons on how to design a website, is choosing high-quality fonts.
Never use more than three fonts. Use fonts from the same family and similar style. Stay consistent with your fonts throughout the website. Keep the font within the body text the same.
To accentuate text, use italics, or bold. Don’t underline text. Traditionally underlined and blue text is associated with hyperlinks.
Identify the right font hierarchy:
• And paragraphs.
- Serif fonts are difficult to read online (Times Roman).
- It may look great in print (Century Schoolbook), but some computer resolutions are different to a printed page.
- Your older generation will (Bodoni MT) have greater difficulty reading these kinds of fonts than the younger generation.
- Baskerville Old Face is another example of a serif font.
Serif fonts are fonts with serifs—decorative strokes at the end of some letters.
San Serif fonts
Use San Serif fonts for your website. Some examples:
- Lucida Sans
- Verdana – a font created for the web
If the font and size of your text forces your reader to concentrate harder in order to read your content, he/she will opt out and never return.
Google Web Fonts
Google Web Fonts are open source fonts that can be embedded or downloaded to use on your website.
Examples of good combinations of Google Web Fonts are:
- Lustria and Lato
- Raleway and Merriweather
- Roboto Slab and Roboto
- Quattrocento and Quattrocento Sans
- Ubuntu and Lora
Making your font sizes too small makes your text difficult to read. Consider your older generation and visually impaired people when choosing a font size.
Making your font sizes too large in the body text will also have a negative impact on your readers.
Choose the right sizes for your titles, headings, and paragraphs and stick with it throughout the website.
The next thing to consider when learning how to design a website, is determining what colors to use. Choose two or three main colors for your color scheme. The color scheme includes the headline types, backgrounds, buttons, borders, popups, and links.
Pick a color guide online and select colors that go together. Use a color palette generator to help you find the right colors.
- Choose the main color for your website.
- Select 1 to 2 accent colors.
- Select the background color.
If you have a church logo, choose hues from the logo.
Dark or gray text on a white or light background is by far the easiest to read. Keep this in mind when choosing your background colors.
- Very bright colors
- Too many colors on your website
Use your main color to attract readers’ attention to a specific area on your website. You should also use it when you want your reader to take a specific action, such as: subscribe to your blog, sign up for your newsletter, call a telephone number, or fill in a contact form.
Favorite colors on websites are red (Pinterest), orange (Amazon), green (Groupon), purple (Yahoo) and blue (Facebook). Certain emotions are associated with different colors and people respond differently to different colors.
White space is good. The text reads easier with ample white space.
Standardize your layout throughout your website.
- Start by placing your title (heading of your post or page) at the top of the page.
- Add an image that is relevant to that page below the title.
- Use subheadings to break up the text.
- Use short paragraphs for readability and scanning purposes.
Make it easy for the reader to read and scan your website page. Use visual hierarchy when deciding on the layout.
Single column format: A single column page focuses the reader on the text. There are no distractions. The reader will scan and read from top to bottom.
Two-column format: Use the main column for your content and a sidebar for additional information. Your sidebar can be to the left or the right of the main column.
This format is commonly used for your blog. The blog post is in the main column and the sidebar for categories, subscriptions, tag clouds, and latest posts. It is easier for the reader to navigate to other blog posts and pages on your website.
Three-column format: Here you have a sidebar on each side of the main text column. Sidebars are used to present information and help readers navigate your website. Keep in mind sidebar content may distract the reader from the main column.
People read from left to right. Studies have shown that 69% percent of time spent on a web page is spent on the left side of the screen. When you use a three-column format, consider these uses:
- Left sidebar for navigation purposes
- Largest central column for content
- Right sidebar for secondary information
The top screen is what readers see first, meaning it’s the most important part of a page. Keep this in mind when placing your content.
Images / pictures
Something that often gets overlooked when learning how to design a website, is how to speed up your website load times for visitors. Large pictures may slow down the load time of your page. To avoid this, size your pictures before you upload them to your site. Although you can edit pictures in your media window on your website, it is best practice to upload the correct sized image first.
Size all your images to the same height and width. Use the same format for all your images on your website pages.
If you’re not sure how to compress your pictures, use a tool like Kraken.io to optimize your images and save your storage space, meaning your website will load faster.
Social media integration
Social media statistics show the following:
- Facebook has about 1.79 billion visitors per month
- Instagram is second with 500 million monthly visitors
- Twitter is third with 310 million monthly visitors
- LinkedIn, the professional social media platform has an average 106 million monthly visitors
Imagine your church reaching so many people!
Social media is an outreach method that is growing. With the usage of social media by millions of people, it is very likely that it will be the first place someone will search to find your church.
Social media is a modern means to communicate. When your congregation interacts with your church social media platforms, the communication spreads to their friends and family.
Integrate social media on your website in two ways:
- Share: Add social media sharing buttons at the top or bottom of each blog post. It allows readers to share the content with family and friends, immediately.
- Follow: Add links to the church social media profile buttons at the top, bottom (footer) or in the sidebar of your website. By adding your social media buttons to these fixed areas, the buttons are available for all pages and posts. It allows members and visitors to easily connect with your church on their favorite social networking platforms.
Add Facebook Like boxes in your sidebar or a Twitter Feed on the Homepage.
Common Social media platforms to consider:
Pick a volunteer or someone on your staff who knows how to design a website that understands clean layout.
Make sure you follow a rule of approval, so someone checks the spelling and looks at the changes or updates before going live to users. As a writer, it is easy to miss your grammar and spelling mistakes; you read the content the way you meant it, and not the actual words. You’ll notice the same grammar mistake in someone else’s writing, but not your own. Hence, it is always good if someone else checks the spelling and grammar on your writing.
For security purposes, never use “admin” as the login username.
Content Guidelines For Designing Your Website
Who is this website for?
When learning how to design a website, always keep in mind that the website is for the visitor, not the church.
Design your website with the visitor/reader/user in mind. Ask and answer these three questions when designing the website:
- What does the visitor want to see first, when landing on your page?
- Where will he/she want to see it?
- How does he/she want it presented?
How much content should you add to your church website?
As much as required. In other words, don’t write a book. Add enough content that is meaningful to the visitor.
Content your website should have:
- About Us
- Statement of Faith
- Staff Overview
- Tithing and Donations
- Photo Gallery
Add your main pages to your menu bar at the top of the site. These tabs include links to the pages. Use 6-7 links for the first level (Homepage) and second level pages. Use common names for the pages, like the following:
- About Us
- Contact Us
The rest of your subpages are linked directly or indirectly to these pages. Use a drop-down menu to add these pages to the relevant secondary page. Alternatively, write a short description of each subpage with its link on the secondary page. For example, on the Ministries Page, add all the ministries with relevant links.
Use the same layout and style for all the main navigation pages and subpages.
Your Homepage is the most important page.
Keep it simple. Don’t overload it with too much information. Keep it clean with one main banner image and welcoming text.
The purpose of the Homepage is to assure the visitor he/she has reached the right place, what to expect, and where to go next. Formulate this in a short branding message for your Homepage.
Within 5 seconds, your visitor should see:
- The name of your church
- What your church is about
- The church location
If you have a subscription to an email newsletter or a free download, then add it here.
The About Us page will expand on the who, what and why of the church.
How To Choose The Best Church Website Company
What to expect from a church website company
A great church website company will offer you everything you need to learn how to design a website and create a website with excellence. You shouldn’t have to search the web for bits and pieces to complete your website.
What MUST a church website company provide? I deliberately used the word “must” and not “should”, because these items are essential for your new website.
Companies like Sharefaith provide pre-designed templates, created by professional designers. You simply replace the placeholder content in the template with your content. The template itself forms a style guide. It tells you what to place where, and in what color or style.
What else must a church website company provide?
Here is the list:
- Free hosting
- Free migration to move your old site
- Domain registration
- Solid, up-to-date tutorials
- Audio/video playlist or sermon playlist
- Tithing & donations
- Photo gallery
- Map integration
- Embedded integration with any 3rd party plugin
- Easy drag-and-drop design tools
- WYSIWYG – real live editing
- Easy, understandable tools for updating and creation
- Integrated graphics and graphics editor
- Clear tutorials and FAQs on how to design a website
- Live phone support, as well as email and chat
- A mobile responsive site
- An integrated mobile app creation tool
Your website needs maintenance and new content regularly.
If you don’t have the time or knowledge of how to design a website, or lack an administrative person to design and maintain your website, you can outsource. Contact your church website company for assistance to set up your website for you at a reasonable fee. The package should include maintenance fee as well. If your church website company doesn’t provide these services, they should be able to refer you.
The same applies when writing content for the website pages, blog posts, newsletters, and social media posts. If you don’t have the time or the expertise, outsource it to a freelance copywriter. Some website companies provide these services, too.
The Easiest Way To Create A Beautiful Church Website