Eight questions to ask before revamping a church website

  1. What is the site's target audience?
    Is it a noticeboard for members of the congregation, a brochure for visitors or somewhere for the community to interact? The last of these requires a different approach from the first two!

  2. Have you analysed which pages of the current site get the most visitors?
    That will tell you a lot about your audience & what they are looking for. You can find this information from the logging provided by your web hosting company (have a look for Webalzer, Analog or AWStats), or by using a script from Google Analytics.

  3. Use cases
    Can you come up with 3 or 4 “use cases”? These are reasons that someone would visit your site to obtain a particular piece of information. You should count the number of clicks that it takes for them to obtain it Using the search box counts as cheating!

  4. Mystery visitor
    Following on from that, consider asking someone who doesn't know the church or the site to act as a “mystery visitor”. Give them each of your use cases, and ask them how easy it was to find the information requested. It's the subjective opinion that counts here – does the person actually enjoy being on the site or do they find it frustrating?

  5. Does the site's hostname make sense?
    In other words, would it be easy to guess it without using Google or another search engine? Things to look at here include is it under the right top level domain – ie .org.uk or possibly .org for better-known churches? Avoid acronyms unless they are really well-known (for instance, HTB may ring a few bells, but CCA could mean “Chartered and Certified Accountants” rather than Christ Church Anytown!). And it's worth including the town.

  6. How is the content managed?
    Do you manage the content (the words, pictures, audio and video clips) separately from the main design of the site? Traditional websites were written by editing HTML either using a specific package or a text editor – which meant that web site creation and editing required learning a set of skills, and so usually any changes to a site were all sent to one or two people. These days with content management systems, once the site has been set up, anyone who has the right username and password can login and update the site or a particular section of the site which they are restricted to – which can remove the bottleneck of any site changes needing to go through one person. 

  7. Does your site make any use of Social Media?
    This means is it easy for someone to refer to your site using services such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ ? In other words, are people talking about you? As Oscar Wilde said “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” One way could be by using the facilities provided by Addthis.com or similar services.

  8. Has your site complied with the EU Cookie Directive?
    This means that if your site uses cookies or similar technologies, you need to ask the site visitor's permission and give them the chance to opt out. This may reduce the functionality of the site for those who opt out. The good news is that this affects commercial sites (where advertisers buy blocks of space) much more than church sites!