What's in this session?

  • Your church website’s number one goal is to make a great first impression (0:58)
  • Brain science & snap impressions (1:23)
  • NBA draft story (3:14)
  • The stats (5:12)
  • 1st impressions stick (5:53)

Show notes and resources

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The Transcript

Brady Shearer: Pro Church Daily is brought to you by Nucleus, a new kind of website builder for churches from single-click templates to advanced integrations. Nucleus is unlike anything else. Nucleus opens on March 20th. Head to nucleus.church to join the launch list. Why just have a website when you could have a nucleus?

Alex Mills: Well, hey there, and welcome to Pro Church Daily, the show where in 10 minutes or less you’ll get your daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus while we navigate the biggest communication shift we’ve seen in the last 500 years. I’m your host, Alex Mills. I’m joined as always by the boss man, it’s Brady Shearer. Today, we’re talking about the number one goal of every church website.

Brady Shearer: On episode 37 of Pro Church Daily, we talked about how your church’s website is the single most important marketing and outreach tool that you have, that your church can possess. Using that as a baseline, a foundation, building upon that, if our website is our most important marketing platform, an outreach tool, what should be its primary goal? That’s what we really want to talk about in this episode of Pro Church Daily.

Truthfully, there is a single goal for every church website and that singular goal is to make a good, ideally great, first impression. Knowing that, or at least me putting that out there as the ideal, let’s reverse engineer why that’s true and reverse engineer how first impressions actually happen. According to Brain Science, it’s actually impossible for us not to make snap judgments about one another. It’s how our brains are wired, and I remember the first time that I met you. Let’s be very honest about first impressions here. The fact that you had long hair and a man bun made me think certain things about you.

Alex Mills: Wow.

Brady Shearer: I don’t really recall what they were. They were six years ago. But I remember that’s an unusual hairstyle and so you immediately go, “Oh, he has a man bun. That must mean X, Y, Z.”

Alex Mills: Of course.

Brady Shearer: Your brain-

Alex Mills: All those things are probably true, by the way.

Brady Shearer: Your brain has to make sense of all these things that are happening around you. For better or for worse, what it does is it parses all the information that you see into trends, categories, generalities because that’s the only way that you can make sense of something. To prove that this is the case, a lot of the times, and this is also confirmed by science, we will confirm first impressions based on evidence we see while just turning a blind eye to evidence that would disconfirm what our first impression was. For instance, this isn’t a perfect analogy, but it’s like when you’re looking for a new car, and after you set your eye on the car that you want, you start seeing that car everywhere.

Alex Mills: Of course.

Brady Shearer: That car was always everywhere but now you’re looking for it and you’re confirming that cognitive bias. For instance, this will happen to me where I’m listening to the radio and I’ll be on the phone for instance. I’ll say a word exactly at the same time that the radio says the same word. You know what I’m talking about?

Alex Mills: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Brady Shearer: Okay. When you’re watching TV or … I’ll watch TV and I’ll listen to a podcast and the podcast will be like, “17.” Then the TV will say the same word, “17.” I’ll be like, “Oh, my gosh. What is this?” No. Literally, you had 10,000 other times where that didn’t happen, but it just stands out the one time that it does happen.

To prove this is the case also, there was this great study done by researchers at California, Berkeley. They looked at MBA teams. The MBA every single year drafts 60 new players into the league, 30 in the first round, 30 in the second round. Basically what this study looked at was this foundational principle. Is this true or is it not? Teams will invest more money, more player development into the players that are most productive for them. What they found was when it comes to the draft, this is not the case, and they found that players that were drafted higher in the draft were disproportionally given higher contracts, more time to develop and more leeway despite their numbers being proven to be not nearly as good because there’s this bias that, well, if they were a high draft pick, they must be good. You see this in all sports where another team will be like, “He was drafted third. It must have been for a reason,” or maybe he just sucks and that’s the thing.

In the MBA at least, any draft expert will tell you that aside from maybe that number one overall pick, the rest of the draft is mostly a crapshoot. You look at teams that have done well, but then they miss all the time as well. You look at teams … Like, for instance, Draymond Green drafted in the second round who has been a multiple time All-Star, defensive player of the year. 30 teams, including the team that drafted him overlooked him and said, “Yeah, he’s not worth the draft pick.” You redraft that. He goes top five easily. Or a player that was drafted with the final pick in the draft, Isaiah Thomas. He’s about our height. He finished top five in MVP voting last year even though he was the final pick in the draft when he was selected. It happens not just in the church world, not just in the regular world, every single person does this.

Knowing this, what can we do to make a better first impression? Well, we have a blog on this. If you go to blog.nucleus.church, we have an article called The 11 Step Church Homepage Formula. It talks about all the things that you need on your homepage to make a good first impression. Just to confirm that this is how the world works and this is why your website’s number one goal really is to make a good first impression, this is from Forbes, 97% of people search for local organizations online. This one is from HubSpot and Google, 46% of all Google searches are local. Discovery is happening online on your websites and when it comes to first impressions online, they happen so, so quickly. Google confirmed this with their research. It only takes about 0.05 seconds to make a first impression online, and then from there, it takes another, about 2.6 seconds for that individual’s eyes to actually concentrate on what they’re seeing and then, again, reinforce that first impression.

To summarize, the number one goal of your church’s website is to make a good first impression. First impressions stick. A lot of the times they last forever and you only get a brief, brief amount of time to make that first impression. Online, it’s just about 0.05 seconds and then about three seconds after that for that first impression to really sink in.

Alex Mills: Right. And it takes so long to undo a bad first impression.

Brady Shearer: The MBA example maybe for most time it’s never undone.

Alex Mills: Yeah. I spend a lot of time on the computer doing work during the day. I’m interacting with a lot of different websites and things online and sometimes honestly I get frustrated with myself that I’m making judgment so quickly when I land on a website. Especially when it comes to churches, this is so valuable for us because you probably have a great community at your church. Your church is probably awesome. But if I land on your website and your website doesn’t make a good first impression, it’s not addressing me as a first time visitor, there aren’t images of real people, it’s not simple, the visual complexity is just too much and your website makes a bad first impression on me regardless of how great your community is, my brain subconsciously has made a judgment about your community and that’s frustrating to me but that’s just the reality.

Like you said, you’ve pointed to a bunch of data, that’s just the reality of how our brains work. Knowing that, all the more reason that with our websites we’re making first impressions everyday online likely. That’s our primary goal and we have to be so intentional about fulfilling that goal.

Brady Shearer: There’s a sitcom called The Good Place. Basically the premise of the show is that these people go to heaven and they end up in the good place but one of them isn’t supposed to be there. They accidentally got put there. The woman, Kristen Bell, who gets sent to the good place accidentally, she is the soulmate of this other character and the name of the character … I’ve only seen this show a couple of times. Sorry. I’ve seen the whole show but I’m forgetting the name of the character. Basically, his biggest flaw is that he can’t make decisions because he always has to make sure that the decision is 100% correct to make the decision before he does.

The whole premise of this character is that he doesn’t get anything done and he’s hurt so many people and relationships have been ruined. When I hear you talk about how like, “I wish my brain didn’t work this way,” the alternative is this, this character where it’s like we make first impressions because there’s so much information that our brain is parsing through that we have to categorize, we have to make assumptions, we have to put people in these general categories because if we didn’t, we literally get nothing done because we would have to parse through everything perfectly and succinctly. Well, we just don’t have all that information. There’s a reason that phrase exists like, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” because we know that first impressions aren’t always true and, yet, we can wish things were different or we can react to how they actually are. That’s why we have to work to make a good first impression.

We looked at more than a thousand church websites and how they made first impressions and did a whole case study on this. It’s at blog.nucleus.church if you want to see that five part first impression test, see how your church would do with it and really begin working on building your church’s website to make a better first impression.

Alex Mills: Spoiler, almost all of them failed.

Brady Shearer: Hey, I didn’t give any spoilers for The Good Place. Now you’re dropping those spoilers.

Alex Mills: Yeah, go read our-

Brady Shearer: Blog.nucleus.church is where to find it. Thanks for watching today’s episode of Pro Church Daily. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you tomorrow.

Alex Mills: Hey, thanks for listening to today’s episode of Pro Church Daily. If you haven’t already, head to prochurchtools.com/nucleus to download our ultimate library of church website page templates, pre-written copy, structured the exact way we would do if we had these pages on our websites. Prochurchtools.com/nucleus is the place to download those.



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