10 Website Best Practices

August 6th, 2012
Trinity Church is one site built by the author's company.

1. Everything links to the web for details.
One of the easiest ways to save money is to use your website as the place for all details. This lets you reduce the size of your mailings, bulletins, and everything else you print. You want to put your web address on all your materials anyway, so go ahead and streamline your print and push the details to articles on your website.

2. Link to all your other resources.
Once people get to your website, be sure to direct them to all the other resources you have. They may be online resources like your Facebook page, Twitter page, or Youtube channel, or they may be other resources like sermon audio, online devotions, or contact info. Some people will first visit your organization via the web, so give them an easy way to take the next step.

3. Take donations online.
There are several ways to take online donations. A couple of them are free and easy! People are already online and often have their debit card handier than they do cash during a worship service. (If you are concerned about promoting credit card use and debt, there are many ways to accept donations electronically. See this article about giving in a paperless society.)

4. Collect data online.
There are many easy and inexpensive ways to collect information via the web. Let people register for events, signup to volunteer, join your mailing list, and do anything else you would normally do with a handwritten form. An added benefit is this data can all be collected and easily exported in a spreadsheet format. No more data input from forms with poor handwriting.

5. Use photos and videos to tell stories.
In the print world, full color photos and printing are expensive. In the web world, photos and videos can be used at no extra cost. A picture is still worth a thousand words, and impatient web visitors are much more likely to look at photos and videos than to read long narratives.

6. Publish bite-sized information frequently.
In direct mail, printing and postage costs make small mailings very expensive. It is much cheaper to publish a multi-page newsletter monthly or quarterly than to put out a one-page flyer twice a week. The web works just the opposite. Web readers would rather see one or two stories a week, than to see 20 stories released together once a month.

7. Use the web to publish the same information through multiple channels.
Different age groups and demographics have different ways they prefer to communicate. You can waste a lot of resources trying to publish a print newsletter, a separate email newsletter, website articles, and Facebook and Twitter posts. Modern web tools let you automatically generate email news, Twitter posts, Facebook stories, RSS feeds, and text messages from your blog posts. Input the news one time in one place, and your people can get it any way they like.

8. Keep the design simple and flexible.
Sometimes graphics people get so caught up in design, they forget the purpose. People come to your website to get information. Your website design can’t “draw them in," they are already there. Keep your design simple so people can easily get the information they want. Keep your design flexible so you can take advantage of new technologies without having to rebuild your whole site.

9. Stay with open technologies.
With traditional systems, the vendor owns the software and design of your site, you only own the data. If you want to move your site or change vendors, you can’t take any of the old site with you. New open source systems like WordPress let you own the whole system, and give you the ability to move your site to new hosts. You can also find new vendors who can help you expand or update your site without having to throw away your old investment.

10. Implement new technology in small steps.
Sometimes economy of scale is an illusion. Taking new technology in several small steps usually doesn’t increase the total cost but almost always increases the odds of success. Usually when a website or social media project fails, it’s because it wasn’t given the support and attention it needed. Rarely do new web projects fail primarily because the church didn’t spend enough money. Often the opposite is true: they invest so much, so quickly, that they are unable to support the new system. Then they assume the technology didn’t work. Take small steps, get results, take the next step.

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