Professional Web Design Company Rochester New York http://www.teemtechnologies.com Sat, 08 Sep 2018 13:52:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 108617048 Five Reasons Why Your Website Should Have a Good Content Management System http://www.teemtechnologies.com/five-reasons-website-good-content-management-system/ Fri, 24 Feb 2012 20:55:16 +0000 http://wp.teemtechnologies.com/?p=1575 If you’ve ever thought about owning a website, you are probably at least somewhat familiar with what a Content Management System (CMS) is.  But in case you’re not, here is the opening sentence from Wikipedia’s definition: “A Web Content Management System (WCMS) is a software system that provides website authoring, collaboration, and administration tools designed to allow users with little...

The post Five Reasons Why Your Website Should Have a Good Content Management System appeared first on Professional Web Design Company Rochester New York - .

]]>
joomla_wp_logos

If you’ve ever thought about owning a website, you are probably at least somewhat familiar with what a Content Management System (CMS) is.  But in case you’re not, here is the opening sentence from Wikipedia’s definition:

“A Web Content Management System (WCMS) is a software system that provides website authoring, collaboration, and administration tools designed to allow users with little knowledge of web programming languages or markup languages to create and manage website content with relative ease.”

That sounds pretty appealing, doesn’t it?  I mean, who doesn’t want to do things with “relative ease?”  And most people I know do have “little knowledge of web programming languages or markup languages” and they’d like it to stay that way!  With that in mind, the rest of this article will discuss several benefits of using a CMS.  So without any further buildup, here are five reasons why your website should have a good CMS…

Ease of Usejoomla-admin-blog

For most people, the thought of making changes to a website is a little bit intimidating.  And there are certainly tasks that are best left to professional designers and developers.  But when it comes to your website content (text, images, video, etc.), that’s something you should be able to claim ownership of.  A good CMS allows you to do that with minimal fuss.  If you’ve ever created a document in any word processing software, then you have the skills necessary to create or update web content in a CMS.  This empowers you to take full ownership of your content and communicate your messsage when, where, and how you think is best.  Simply point, click, type!

Save Time and Money

It becomes fairly obvious after considering the first benefit above, but if you have the ability to maintain your own website content, you save time and money by eliminating the need for a professional web designer to manage your content.  Once your web designer has designed and implemented your website in a CMS and shown you how to use it, you now have the keys to drive it.  So instead of typing up content in a text document, emailing it to the designer, discussing cost and payment, then waiting for the designer to make the requested changes…you simply login to your CMS admin panel, locate the area you would like to update, make your changes, then click Save.  Voila!  Instant website updates – at no cost.  In an increasingly complex world, simplicity is a beautiful thing!

Consistent Design Elementswordpress-admin-blog

Here’s where your professional web designer comes into play (you didn’t think I’d completely remove myself from the process, did you?).  A professional web design company can install and configure a good CMS for you, and also design the layout and visual elements/styles that will define the appearance of your website.  Once this is done properly, every page you create in your CMS will have the same design styles applied, making for a consistent appearance from page to page.  But the benefit to you is that you don’t need to worry about making sure you use the same styles on each page – that happens automatically for you within the framework of the CMS.  This includes colors, fonts, positioning, standard page elements such as header and footer, and a consistent navigation menu on each page.  All you have to do is focus on your content.  The CMS beautifully and seamlessly incorporates your content into the design of the website.

Extensions

A good Content Management System is built on the principle of modularity.  This simply means that the elements and functionality of the website are broken out into self-contained parts.  This approach allows for extensibility.  What that means for you, the website owner, is that pretty much any feature or functionality you can dream up can be added to your website through small programs often called extensions.  Extensions come in several different varieties, from full-scale components to small plugins.  Some are commercial (paid) and many are non-commercial (free).  They can be used with out-of-the-box functionality, or they can be customized (by a developer).  Extensions provide a fairly quick method of adding new features to your website.  Examples include calendars, social integration, image sliders, contact forms, user forums, and much more.  A good CMS makes it straight-forward to take advantage of the vast number of third-party extensions available on the internet.

Built-in SEO Benefits

With the ever increasing size of the web, it’s not enough to simply have a website.  No matter what your market or niche, you undoubtedly have online competition.  This is why Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a service industry entirely unto itself in the past decade or two.  In case you’ve been in a bunker for the past several years and aren’t familiar with the concept, SEO is the process of improving the visibility or ranking of your website in search engine results.  SEO is more of an art than a science, but there are several basic techniques that are widely accepted that involve the coding and structure of your website.  Do you know how to implement those techniques?  I didn’t think so.  Not to worry…a good CMS will handle much of the basic website optimization behind the scenes, leaving you to focus on generating good, relevant content.  Do keep in mind that what we’re talking about here is basic SEO, but every bit helps in increasing your website traffic.  For more advanced SEO, you’ll need to hire a professional.  But with a good CMS, you’ve got a good start already.

Conclusion

So those are just five of many reasons why a good CMS is a great idea for your website.  Even large corporations can benefit from a Content Management System – a topic that I plan to explore in a future article.  But for small businesses, medium-sized businesses, non-profits, churches, or individuals, using a CMS is really a no-brainer.  Rather than relying on someone else to keep your website fresh, take control of your content and make your website your own.

If you don’t currently have a website or your website is not using a good CMS, get in touch with me and we can discuss your options.  I think you’ll quickly find that a Content Management System is an excellent way to build your website.

Feel free to comment below on your experience with Content Management Systems, or perhaps you can share if you have a favorite CMS.

The post Five Reasons Why Your Website Should Have a Good Content Management System appeared first on Professional Web Design Company Rochester New York - .

]]>
1575
Designing Websites for Mobile Devices http://www.teemtechnologies.com/designing-websites-mobile-devices/ Fri, 17 Feb 2012 14:51:39 +0000 http://wp.teemtechnologies.com/?p=1573 If you live in the US in 2012, there’s almost a 50% chance that you own a smartphone according to Nielsen’s 2011 State of Mobile Media Report.  The continuing rise of smartphone use means more and more people are accessing the web via handheld mobile devices.  As that transition from desktop to mobile browsing continues, the focus on providing mobile-friendly websites...

The post Designing Websites for Mobile Devices appeared first on Professional Web Design Company Rochester New York - .

]]>
What-You-Need-to-Know-About-Mobile-Web-Design

If you live in the US in 2012, there’s almost a 50% chance that you own a smartphone according to Nielsen’s 2011 State of Mobile Media Report.  The continuing rise of smartphone use means more and more people are accessing the web via handheld mobile devices.  As that transition from desktop to mobile browsing continues, the focus on providing mobile-friendly websites becomes more important.

The main difference between the desktop browsing experience and browsing on a mobile device is, of course, the screen size.  If you’ve ever tried to browse the full desktop version of a website on your smartphone, you understand how challenging it can be to navigate.  You’ll most likely end up doing a lot of zooming in and out, swiping, and trying to make pinpoint touches on tiny text links.  The usability of full-scale websites on a mobile devices depends somewhat on the device and it’s browser.  But even the largest screens are around 5″ in size – exponentially smaller than a typical desktop or laptop monitor.

Another difference is what types of technologies the browsers support.  Most mobile browsers can support javascript, but some will not support flash and other technologies commonly found on desktop websites.  One example of this is trying to navigate a typical drop-down menu in a mobile browser.  Some flyout menus do not translate well to mobile browsing, making it difficult – and sometimes literally impossible – to navigate the website.

One last difference worth mentioning is the data connection speed.  Most of us have become accustomed to browsing on a high-speed internet connection on our computers.  But most smartphones are limited to significantly slower speeds.  This difference in bandwidth can affect how images are displayed in a mobile browser.  Large images not only make page load times longer, but their dimensions can flow well beyond the bounds of these smaller screens and make visibility a challenge.

Creating a Mobile Version of Your Website

There are currently two primary approaches to solving the problems mentioned above.  One is called “Responsive Design.”  Creating a responsive website has to do with designing your main site with cross-platform/browser/device usability in mind.  In other words, instead of designing a separate website just for mobile devices, you design a single site that can be viewed comfortably on any device, from desktops to smartphones.  This is mainly accomplished through the use of fluid layouts based on advanced CSS techniques.  The term “responsive” comes from the way the web page “responds” to the changing size of the viewport (the size of the browser window).  As the viewport is resized, the page content flows into the available space like liquid.  This requires some good planning and a willingness to be flexible with your main design.

The other primary approach is to design your full-scale website for desktop browsing with all the features and gimmicks that you would want a desktop user to benefit from, and then pare that down and design a secondary website specifically for mobile devices.  This is the approach I’ve chosen to take with my own website, and with a good content management system like the one I use, it’s not really as difficult as it may sound.

The images included in this article are screenshots from my iPhone of the mobile version of this site.  You can check it out simply by browsing to this website on your smartphone (no special url required).  As you can see, while some of the branding and visual elements are consistent across both versions, the mobile site is much simpler.  The focus of a mobile website should be on ease of use and display of only the most relevant information.  You’ll notice right away that the home page only contains the main menu and a footer with links to follow TEEM Technologies on various social sites, and a link to switch to viewing the site in standard format.  This mobile menu has been made touch-friendly by utilizing oversized buttons and condensing a multi-level menu into a single level.

On other pages, you will see that images have either been stripped out completely, or scaled down significantly in filesize and dimension.  All content is forced into the available viewport size, depending on whether the phone is held in portrait or landscape orientation.  On my site, I have enabled zooming, in case the text size is too small for your preference.  On pages other than the home page, the top title bar becomes the location for “breadcrumb” buttons.  You can quickly tap a finger-sized button to go back to the previous page or directly to the home page.  This is necessary because I’ve chosen not to display the main menu on pages other than the home page in order to conserve screen real estate.  That decision depends on the size and complexity of the website.

Other elements have been left off the mobile site, such as sidebar modules like those found on the desktop version of my About page.  Only the most important content should be displayed on a mobile website.  To understand what is important, you need to think about your business/organization and who your mobile audience will be.  For me, my mobile site is not only about sharing information, but the mobile site itself is a representation of my work and ability to design attractive, functional mobile websites for potential clients.  The design is as much about showcasing my talent in the mobile arena as it is about letting the user know what services I provide and how to contact me.

Does Everyone Need a Mobile Website?

While it certainly couldn’t hurt to have a mobile version of your website, the answer to that question is “probably not.”  But a better question to ask is, “Do YOU need a mobile version of your website?”  That depends on the purpose of your website and who your primary audience is.  If your primary website user is in a demographic that has a very low percentage of mobile device ownership (say, seniors), you probably don’t NEED to optimize your website for mobile viewing.  On the other hand, you could be forward thinking and prepare for a future in which mobile browsing is more a rule than an exception.

As I mentioned earlier, I use a content management system for my website.  If you’re a web design client of TEEM Technologies, your website will be built on a CMS as well.  One of the many advantages of a good CMS is that it is fairly straight-forward to create a mobile version of your website.  I did not need to create a completely separate mobile website from scratch (or even by making a separate copy of the full site).  Instead, I merely created a mobile version of the main php file and separate CSS files.  I’m able to display most of the same content directly from the full website, which avoids having to update two separate sources whenever I want to add or update content on the website.

The key is that instead of creating a pared down copy of web page content to display in a mobile browser, I am only serving up portions of already existing content in a mobile-friendly format.  This makes content maintenance simple, and makes it worthwhile for any organization to have a mobile version of their website.

That’s a Wrap

So what can we learn about mobile website design from all this?  What I’ve learned is that designing websites for mobility is becoming important enough to consider on each web design project that my company undertakes.  While it may not be an equal investment for every client, for many it is well worthwhile.  When you consider the incremental nature of designing a mobile site from a CMS, and weigh that against the benefits, it becomes a high-value proposition.

But what do we learn from this once we’ve already accepted the benefit of a mobile website?  There are several important points to take away.  One is that a mobile website should not simply be a miniaturized version of your main website.  When designing a mobile site, a change in perspective is necessary.  Mobile browsing is extremely task-oriented.  Most people don’t spend long periods of time meandering through the web on a mobile device like they might while sitting in front of their computer.  Instead, mobile users will fire up their browser only for a specific purpose.  When designing your mobile website, your primary job is to figure out what that purpose might be.  Then you need to use that information to decide on what content will help the user achieve their purpose for viewing your website on the go.

Another important point is that a mobile website needs to be simple and easy to navigate.  All of the fancy transitions and animations of menus, links, and other elements should be stripped out, and the focus should be on streamlined usability.  The goal of a mobile site is less about engaging the user, and much more about making it exceedingly quick and easy for the user to find exactly what they came to your mobile site for.

If any of that sounds like a daunting task, don’t worry…TEEM Technologies can help you through that process.  If you’re reading this and are wondering if you should have a mobile version of your website, give me a call or shoot me an email and let’s chat about it.  I’ve advised some clients that it may not be a necessary investment for them, and they’ve decided to wait.  So a mobile website may not be necessary for everyone…the question is, would it be good for you?

The post Designing Websites for Mobile Devices appeared first on Professional Web Design Company Rochester New York - .

]]>
1573
Extreme Makeover: Website Edition http://www.teemtechnologies.com/extreme-makeover-website-edition/ Wed, 27 Oct 2010 15:23:12 +0000 http://wp.teemtechnologies.com/?p=1571   My father always taught me not to “judge a book by it’s cover.”  Good advice when dealing with people.  The web is from about the same generation as I am, and judging by some of the websites generated in the 90’s, I’m guessing the father of the web (Al Gore has made a claim to fatherhood of the web,...

The post Extreme Makeover: Website Edition appeared first on Professional Web Design Company Rochester New York - .

]]>
 

PatrickMooreOpticians

My father always taught me not to “judge a book by it’s cover.”  Good advice when dealing with people.  The web is from about the same generation as I am, and judging by some of the websites generated in the 90’s, I’m guessing the father of the web (Al Gore has made a claim to fatherhood of the web, but DNA testing was inconclusive) offered the same advice.  But both the web and I have grown up, and times have changed.  I still try not to judge people by their appearance, but it’s no secret that most people absolutely judge a website based on their first impression.  In fact, a recent study shows that 42% of people judge a website on overall design alone.  And more importantly, 52% said they would not return to a website with poor aesthetics.

So what does that mean for you?  Well, if your website has a poor design and/or is just plain ugly, you can expect about half of first time visitors to never return to your site.  Can you accept that?  Didn’t think so.  And yet plenty of websites today fall into the category of being poorly designed and ugly.  Is yours one of those?  Let’s find out.

The first thing every website owner should do is ask people for unbiased feedback on their site design.  Don’t assume that you always know what appeals to potential visitors.  Get some brutally honest opinions about your website and don’t dismiss them.  Along with that feedback, here are some indicators you can use to determine if you have a bad website design.

  • The last time you updated or redesigned your website appearance was more than 5 years ago.
  • You have clipart images on your website.
  • The images on your site are pixelated or poor quality.
  • Your website has a black background with colored text.
  • You have blinking text or images on your website.
  • You use more than 3 colors in your design.
  • Your colors are not complementary.
  • You have virtually no white space on your site (too much going on).
  • Your pages are longer than 2-3 screens.
  • Your menus change from page to page.
  • You or someone you know designed your website using Frontpage.
  • You have broken links on multiple pages of your website.

After reading that list and getting honest feedback, maybe you have a poorly designed website, or you’re concerned you might.  Here are some things you should consider to help you turn that ugly website into an attractive one.  All of these principles are based on the assumption that you know and understand your target audience.  If you haven’t gone through the exercise of clearly identifying your main audience and understanding what appeals to them, start there.

Typography

The font face and size you choose is very important in your design.  Different fonts send different messages, and some are more readable than others.  Choose a font that is consistent with the style of your brand or business.  Speaking of consistency, it’s important to keep your font consistent throughout your site.  I recommend using no more than 2-3 different fonts on your entire site in most cases.  Choose your main font for content and keep it the same on every page.  Use a different font for headings, links, or menus if you choose.  Just make sure they are from the same basic font family and are common web fonts.

Also pay attention to the size and format of your fonts.  Strike a balance between readability and real estate on your pages.  Use bold, italics, and underline formatting sparingly and with purpose.  People don’t usually READ websites, they SCAN them.  Make your content scannable through use of headings, bulleted lists, short paragraphs, and appropriately bolded text to highlight important sections.

Color

One of the most important aspects of good design is color choice.  Admittedly, color choice can be highly subjective.  However, some of the basic principles of interior home design can be applied to web design to assist you.  Use complementary colors in your palette.  Don’t use more than 2-3 colors – a main color and 1-2 accent colors.  Choose a color palette that communicates a certain style (always based on your target audience).  Look to nature for examples, and do some research into how color “temperatures” convey moods.

Also make sure to use contrast to draw attention to the most important elements of your site.  This entails reserving the color that most stands out for use in content that you want the visitor’s eye to be drawn to.  If you’re not sure which colors work well together, it can be helpful to think about how those colors would look in a room and how they would make you feel.  Here are some web tools you can use to help you select a color palette.  And sometimes a simple, minimalist design can be very powerful.  Black text on white background can be very attractive and memorable, if it fits your brand’s style.

Spacing

As with most things, spacing on your website comes down to balance.  You don’t want your pages to appear crowded or busy, but neither do you want to waste space and create overly long pages.  I believe that most poorly designed sites tend to be too crowded, so let me suggest that you instead err on the side of having too much space between elements.  What might feel like too much white space will probably be just right for modern design trends.

Space is important for allowing your site visitors to quickly and easily find what they are looking for.  If elements of your page are too close together, it all blends into a jumbled mess that is not easily discernable.  White space allows important elements to stand out and be recognizable as a visitor scans your page.  It also creates an impression of being “clean” and streamlined, which is a positive impression.

Navigation

I’m going to re-use some ideas on navigation that I wrote about in a previous article about designing a great church website.  If your visitors can’t EASILY find relevant information on your site, they won’t find it at all.  It’s very important to have a consistent navigation system through which visitors can find any page on your site.  The most common and effective navigation system in modern websites is the top drop-down menu.  Your top menu should contain a link to every single page on your site, and that menu should remain exactly the same on every page.  If it’s appropriate to have a context-sensitive menu, make it a secondary menu in another location of certain pages, such as along a sidebar.  But your header area should include a top menu, and that header area should remain consistent from page to page.

If you do want to have another menu section on your site that highlights some of the most important or popular pages on your site (such as a quick links menu), that’s fine.  It’s a good practice, but just make sure you don’t rely on that type of menu as the primary method of navigation.  In other words, it should be redundant to links that are already in the top menu.  But the main concept to keep in mind when designing a navigation system is consistency.

Images

This is also a topic I covered in a previous article about designing a great church website.  Proper use of images can be a real boost to the effectiveness of your website.  One consideration is the quality of images.  Not many things are less attractive on a page than poor-quality, pixelated images.  If the image can’t be rendered clearly, don’t use it – it will do more harm than good.  You might consider investing in high-quality stock imagery from a site such as iStockphoto.

Another consideration is placement of images.  Too many and your page looks crowded.  Too few and your page looks bland or sterile.  Images are relatable and add warmth – particularly images of people.  Use the powerful combination of image, text, and white space to convey your message in a memorable way.  Just make sure not to overdo it.

Content

For the most part, the visual design of your website is important only in that it can either keep people from – or draw people to – the most important part of your site:  the content.  It would be an utter waste of time to design a great looking site that has no relevant content.  While it’s true that an ugly design will keep people away from your site, the converse isn’t true:  a beautiful design alone will not keep people coming back to your site.  Once a site visitor determines that your site is well designed, the only thing that will keep them coming back is good content.

I can’t tell you exactly what to put on your site, but there are some basic principles that apply to most, if not all, websites.  Start by making sure you have relevant content on your site.  This is predicated on understanding your target audience.  If you don’t know what they want, you probably won’t be able to give it to them.  It’s also important to keep your content fresh.  People won’t keep coming back to your site if the content never changes.  This will require you to periodically update your site content.  Keeping your site up to date is one of the best ways to attract return visitors.  That may seem like a daunting task that takes more time than you’re willing to give.  However, with the advent of Content Management Systems (CMS), there’s no longer any excuse for not keeping your content updated regularly.

A good CMS (such as Joomla or WordPress) allows you to quickly and easily update your site content with little or no technical skill.  This saves you from having to make a choice between letting your site get stale and having to pay a developer to make changes for you.  A CMS puts you, the site owner, in control of your own content and saves you time and money in the long run.  I recommend that every website owner strongly consider using a CMS for their website.  TEEM Technologies has numerous clients who can attest to the value of having their sites on a CMS.  It’s definitely worth the initial investment of time or money.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that you need both good content and good design to have an effective website.  If you have some experience with web technologies, the principles discussed above can help to guide you in designing an attractive website.  If not, I urge you to consider investing in an experienced professional web designer who will provide you with a CMS and a beautiful design.  None of the information in this article will help you if you rely on an inexperienced person to implement a design.  In most cases, the one-time investment in hiring a professional to deliver a CMS-based design will pay for itself before long.

So if you don’t have an attractive, modern website that invites people to stay and discover your content, the time to update is now.  Each day that you wait you may be losing at least 50% of all potential return visitors.  It doesn’t take a mathematician to realize that it quickly becomes an exponential return on your investment to put an attractive, relevant design in front of those people.  It’s worth being brutally honest with yourself about.  Do you have an ugly website that is poorly designed?  If you do, I hope this article will inspire and enable you to do something about it.

I appreciate your comments and feedback in the section below.  Let me know if TEEM Technologies can do anything to assist you in your website design.

The post Extreme Makeover: Website Edition appeared first on Professional Web Design Company Rochester New York - .

]]>
1571
Design a Great Church Website (Tips & Principles) http://www.teemtechnologies.com/design-great-church-website-tips-principles/ Wed, 13 Oct 2010 20:45:56 +0000 http://wp.teemtechnologies.com/?p=1569 Let me begin with a statement of fact:  EVERY church needs a good website.  I can tell you from a personal standpoint that if I can’t find a church’s website, I’m not attending that church.  Period.  Even if I know the church exists, where it is, and what it stands for.  The mere fact that a church doesn’t have a...

The post Design a Great Church Website (Tips & Principles) appeared first on Professional Web Design Company Rochester New York - .

]]>
church_website-1-720x360

Let me begin with a statement of fact:  EVERY church needs a good website.  I can tell you from a personal standpoint that if I can’t find a church’s website, I’m not attending that church.  Period.  Even if I know the church exists, where it is, and what it stands for.  The mere fact that a church doesn’t have a website communicates something important to me and it’s pretty much a deal-breaker.  I’ve had that conversation with others and most, if not all, agree on that.

But that’s not a very big issue because most churches DO have a website.  The real issue is the quality and focus of some church websites.  That is the problem I want to address in this article – how to design a GREAT church website and avoid common mistakes of website design.  Some of these principles can be applied to other types of websites, such as non-profit or small business websites.  Some of the points are very specific to church websites.  So let’s get right to it…

Focus

The first thing you should always do before beginning your website design is identify your target audience.  This goes for any website.  How can you design an effective website if you don’t know whom you want to view it?  (That was a rhetorical question, by the way.)  So what type of person should a church website target?  Actually, the challenge of designing a great church website is that you need to target two audiences – one primary and one secondary.

Your primary (and most important) audience should be people who do not attend your church – especially non-Christians.  You should view your church website as a modern outreach tool.  A website offers a comfortable, convenient way for potential visitors to find out about your church.  They will most likely make a decision about whether or not to attend based on what they see on your website.  Therefore, your site needs to be designed with that person in mind so they can get a clear understanding of what your church believes, teaches, does, and what kind of people make up your church.  You want them to be attracted to attend in person.

Your secondary audience should be people who already attend your church. This group is less important than the first (in the context of website design), simply because there probably isn’t anything you can communicate on the website that they don’t already know, or can’t easily find out from another source.  Definitely use your website to promote series, events, programs, meetings, etc.  But not at the expense of losing your primary target audience.  Don’t make the mistake of focusing on existing members and sending the message that your church is an exclusive club.

Content

Once you’ve identified your target audience, you then need to understand what that audience wants to see.  This should determine your site’s content.  Keeping in mind that a great church website serves two audiences, you will need to make some decisions based on the primary audience over the secondary.  I would recommend beginning with some basic questions about your primary audience and let those answers drive your initial design.  You can later go back and add some elements that serve the secondary audience, as long as those elements will not diminish your primary goal of appealing to people who do not already attend your church.

Simply by identifying visitors as your primary audience, you’ve already determined a prominent part of your design:  the “Newcomers” section.  If you truly want to attract visitors to attend your church, create an area specifically for newcomers and display a link (or two) prominently on your home page.  It doesn’t hurt to have a link on the top level of your main menu as well as a graphic link to that same section.  Make it stand out so that a site visitor will immediately notice it and be attracted to click on it.  You’ve only got a few seconds to grab the attention of a web surfer…make it count.

So what do visitors want to know about your church?  Here are some basic questions that should be answered for a newcomer:

  • Where is your church located and how do I get there?
  • What times are your services?
  • What should I wear?
  • What are the atmosphere and people like?
  • Is there childcare available?
  • What programs/activities/events do you offer that may interest me?
  • What does your church believe?
  • What is your church’s purpose?
  • Who is your pastor?
  • How can I contact someone at your church?

 

Language

Now that you’ve got some ideas about what questions your content should answer, you need to focus on the actual language you’ll use.  I’m not talking about deciding whether to communicate in English, Spanish, or French.  Though if you’re not careful, you’re message will end up sounding like Greek to any visitor!

A common mistake among church websites is the use of “religious” or “churchy” language.  I suspect that stems from incorrectly identifying the target audience as being existing church members.  It’s an important point, so I think it bears stating explicitly here.  Avoid using terms that a person who hasn’t attended church all their lives wouldn’t understand.  Concepts such as “sanctification,” “atonement,” or “expository preaching” are not part of an unchurched persons’s vocabulary.  Using “insider” language can make a visitor feel like an outsider.  I’m not suggesting that you “dumb down” your message, but I am suggesting that you give some thought to using different words if possible.  And if you absolutely need to use a term or phrase that you suspect may not resonate with a visitor, make sure to explain what it means using a footnote or some other method.

Media

We’ve talked a lot about text information so far, but let’s face it:  a picture is STILL worth a thousand words.  Especially on the internet where people are scanning, not reading, and they are bombarded with multimedia.  A website that is too text heavy will discourage visitors from hanging around for very long.  Nobody is going to sit in front of their monitor and read pages of information about your church (the irony of that statement as I sit here typing pages of information for you to read is not lost on me!).  So you need to communicate in other ways, namely through multimedia.  You probably already understand that it’s important to use images on your website.  But it’s very important to use the right kind of images at the right frequency.  Too many images can also be a deterrent to site visitors.  So let’s look at what types of images you should be placing on your website, and where.

First, don’t make the mistake of using a bunch of pictures of your church building.  Not surprisingly, people relate to people, not buildings.  It’s fine to use a picture of your church building on the location or directions page so that newcomers can recognize it when they arrive, but don’t send the message that your church is a building.  One of the main goals of your website is to make your church feel inviting and welcoming to visitors.  Images of friendly-looking, happy groups of people go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.  Liberal use of such images is encouraged, especially on the home page where your site makes the first impression on visitors.  Communicate through images that your church is about people and relationships.

Try to have around 1 – 3 images on every page of your site.  Not all of them need to have people in them, but the majority should.  More than 3 images on a page tends to look cluttered, and image files do add to load times, so you need to balance the aesthetics with the functionality.  Make sure you don’t use full-sized images that fill up an entire page.  This is not only visually unappealing, but will cause longer load times due to the image file sizes.  Instead, use thumbnails that are moderately sized.  As a rule of thumb (no pun intended), I normally embed images that are no larger than 300 px in width or height.  If necessary to have a full-size version of the image available, make the thumbnail a link to the full-size image.  Using a javascript popup technology such as lightbox is a great way to handle that.

It’s also helpful to both visitors and regular attenders to have an area of your site for viewing videos or listening to audio of sermons.  This gives visitors an opportunity to get a taste of what they will experience when they attend your service on Sunday.  You can also use your website to promote special events using promotional videos and images.  Just one caveat that happens to be a pet peeve of mine – don’t set audio/video files to autoplay.  That really turns me off, and will usually lead to me turning off that site.  Let the viewer decide when they will click play so they don’t get any loud surprises.  But don’t be afraid to cater to our modern, attention-challenged culture using video and images to communicate your message.

Navigation

This principle applies to websites of any kind.  If your visitors can’t EASILY find relevant information on your site, they won’t find it at all.  It’s very important to have a consistent navigation system through which visitors can find any page on your site.  The most common and effective navigation system in modern websites is the top drop-down menu.  Your top menu should contain a link to every single page on your site, and that menu should remain exactly the same on every page.  If it’s appropriate to have a context-sensitive menu, make it a secondary menu in another location of certain pages, such as along a sidebar.  But your header area should include a top menu, and that header area should remain consistent from page to page.

When building your top menu navigation layout, consider logical groupings of content.  Then start by creating the major categories, which will be at the “top level” of your drop-down menu.  These will be visible horizontally across the header area.  Then place sub-menu items under those categories in a logical fashion.  You can see examples of this on this site above.  It’s usually a good idea to nest sub-items no further than 3 levels deep.

You may also want to have another menu section on your site that highlights some of the most important or popular pages on your site.  You might call it a quick links menu.  That’s a good practice, but just make sure you don’t rely on that type of menu as the primary method of navigation.  In other words, it should be redundant to links that are already in the top menu.  And a quick links type menu doesn’t have to be just text links.  It’s often very effective to use images or icons to visually represent these links and draw attention.  But the main concept to keep in mind when designing a navigation system is consistency.

Conclusion

In case you scanned this article instead of fully reading it, here’s my message in a nutshell.  Your church needs a website, but if you want it to be an effective outreach tool, you need to keep several principles in mind.  There are other elements to good web design, but here are the few that are specific to churches.

  • A great church website always begins with proper identification of your primary audience – people who don’t already attend your church.
  • Your website content should be focused on what a potential visitor needs to know in order to feel comfortable and welcomed in attending your church.
  • The language you use to convey that information should be very deliberately crafted to be relatable for an unchurched person.
  • Use multimedia appropriately throughout your site, and focus on people.
  • Design your main navigation system to be comprehensive and consistent.

Let those principles guide your design decisions and I feel confident that your church website will become an effective entry point for people into your church body.

If you have any questions or comments to share, please do so in the comments section below.  I would love to generate some discussion around this subject and get your feedback.  And, of course, if you would like professional help in designing your website, you can contact me.

The post Design a Great Church Website (Tips & Principles) appeared first on Professional Web Design Company Rochester New York - .

]]>
1569