What's in this session?

  • An introduction to the holy trinity of church website design (0:55)
  • #1 - Make a good first impression (primary duty) (1:11)
  • #2 - Provide helpful information and next steps (4:19)
  • #3 - Rank as high as possible in search engines (5:38)

Show notes and resources

Free Bonus: Click here to download The Perfect Church Homepage Infographic – a complete visual breakdown of the essential elements that every church website homepage needs

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 were 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 three duties every church website has to fulfill.

Brady Shearer: I think the importance of a church website cannot be overstated and I also think it can be confusing knowing truly what your website is meant to do, what it should be accomplishing. We wanted to distill everything that your website does and aims to do into what I call the Holy Trinity of church website design.

Alex Mills: Nice, not sacrilegious at all.

Brady Shearer: I hope that isn’t too blasphemous or anything like that. If it is, well, it’s too late now. The three core duties that your church website must fulfill if you want to succeed and have a website that’s doing what’s it’s meant to do. The first, and this is the most important of the three, the primary duty is make a good first impression.

Alex Mills: Of course.

Brady Shearer: It is insane how quickly first impressions are made and it does seem kind of silly when you think about meeting someone for the first time and in that moment you are going to decide everything about that person and they happen extremely fast and they happen fast online as well. First impression online, and this comes from Google, happens within 0.05 seconds.

Alex Mills: That’s just insane.

Brady Shearer: Just milliseconds a first impression has already been made and then about two and a half seconds after that, a viewer’s eyes fully concentrate on the website and the first impression they’ve already made just becomes reinforced. That’s how quickly a first impression is being made. How do we make a good first impression with our website? Well, Google did this really great study where they looked at the types of websites that users best interact with, the ones that they like the absolute most. What they found was websites with low visual complexity were perceived as the most appealing so ones that were very easy to navigate. And, in Google’s own words, they said, “Users strongly prefer website designs that look both simple and familiar.” This, unfortunately, is an indictment on many church website.

Alex Mills: Yeah, absolutely.

Brady Shearer: We try to do so, so much. This is what makes sliders so egregious, their use on websites, is that you want to be simple and familiar. It’s also why you don’t need to be original with your website. You want something that a user is familiar with. That’s how you make a good first impression. Remember, first impressions are happening within milliseconds and, interestingly, 94% of an overall first impression is made with the design, not the usability, not the words,

Alex Mills: Not the content, yeah.

Brady Shearer: … Not the messaging, the design. A lot of the times what people say about the first impression and what they say they’re evaluating on is not what they’re evaluating on at all. 0.05 seconds, 94% design related, users strongly prefer designs that are simple and familiar.

We did a case study that you can read. It’s about 4,000 words, incredibly extensive, blog.nucleus.church. You can read through the entire case study. We looked at more than a thousand church websites and found that 96.2% of the websites we’ve analyzed failed our very simple and basic rudimentary five-part first impression test.

Alex Mills: It’s like fundamental basics about what a good website should be.

Brady Shearer: 8 out of every 10 church websites failed more than one part. The test wasn’t super hard. 96% of our websites are making a bad first impression. This is why we built the Nucleus framework. It is built on the data we have on how to make a great first impression. It’s the most important duty that your church has and is responsible for and most of our websites are failing this even though we’re using something like a Squarespace or a WordPress or an agency that we’re paying money to. It should work and it’s not.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: The case study is what really revealed that. You got to make a great first impression and that is what the primary responsibility is for your church’s website. Beyond that, there are others. The second is to provide helpful information and next steps. This would be like the main content of your website. A lot of churches don’t think about a first impression. A lot of churches do think about this. This is from Duane Forrester, the Senior Project Manager at Bing. He said, “Your goal,” pertaining to your website, “should be that when a visitor lands on your page, the content answers of all their needs and encourages their next action to remain with you.”

This is the purpose of your website. The second core responsibility, answer user’s questions and encourage them to take the next step so they don’t just see something and then leave but they actually take action. There is a response. This could be someone looking, as a new visitor, for service times, address, phone number, contact info. It could be an existing member of your congregation looking to sign up for a small group, give, look at the calendar, listen to a sermon, watch a message. This is why within the Nucleus framework, we have these single-click templates which allow you instantly with just a click of a button to create an entire page on your website with copy and image placeholders and forms and the full framework exactly how we would structure a page. If you were putting together, let’s say, an I’m new page that answered information and encouraged the next step for a new visitor, you could make that in just one click using a Nucleus single-click template.

Finally, the third responsibility that your church must fulfill, the third duty is rank as high as possible in search engines. Everyday people in your community are searching for a church. They’re searching for hope and community and purpose. Instead of checking out a local service in person, they’re starting that search online.

Alex Mills: Of course.

Brady Shearer: If you want to be discovered in 2018 and beyond, your website needs to rank as high as possible in search. One metric that search engines pay big attention to is this metric called dwell time. Again, this comes from Duane Forrester, the Senior Project Manager at Bing. He had this to say about dwell time. “The time between when a user clicks on our search result,” in Bing, “and when they come back from your website tells a potential story. A minute or two is good because that can easily indicate the visitor consumed your content. Less than a couple of seconds can be viewed as a poor result.” Interestingly, that’s about Bing. Let’s talk about Google.

The average dwell time for a top 10 Google result is three minutes and 10 seconds. To define dwell time, I just realized I overlooked that, it’s basically how long someone is actually spending on your website once they leave the search engine. Think about this. If someone went on to Google and searched “church in Fargo” and they clicked on the first link, stayed there for three seconds and then hit the back button.

Alex Mills: Yeah, it’s not good.

Brady Shearer: Hypothetical situation number two. Hypothetical situation number one is I inverse those.

Alex Mills: Perfect.

Brady Shearer: Someone searches “church in Fargo.” Clicks on the third result, let’s say. They spend, instead of three seconds, three minutes on that page. Which do you think signals a more positive response to the search engine? Of course the three minutes, more time spent leads to higher search engine rankings. Bing has come out and said that just straight out, Google notoriously hidden and covert with their signal rankings for the Google search engine. They’ve even said this and come out and said, “Yeah, dwell time is important.” Search engines, they want to provide the best possible experience for their users and dwell time is one of the key indicators for that.

The three responsibilities, duties your church must fulfill if you want your website to succeed, number one, make a good first impression, most important. Number two, provide helpful information and next steps and, number three, rank as high as possible in search engines.

Alex Mills: This third one when it comes to search engine optimization, SEO, and ranking and Google can seem daunting to people, especially people who aren’t familiar with how to create a website or the backend stuff. I really love these three duties because if you fulfilled the first two, if you can capture someone’s attention within the first second or a few seconds with great design and then answer their questions with good content, then they’re going to stay on your site. That’s going to translate into a good dwell time and organically you’ll perform better in search engines. It’s not as hard as we think it is or complicated. Just prioritize those first, too. Get people staying on your site and then deliver the content. Answer their questions. Give them an opportunity to take that next step and the rest of it will into place.

Brady Shearer: That will do it for today’s episode of Pro Church Daily. Speaking of pages on your website and improving them, we’ve got this free download that we want you to get your hands on if you haven’t already, the place to get it is prochurchtools.com/nucleus. It’s seven proven page templates for your church’s website, pre-written copy, the exact structure and framework that we would suggest for these important pages on your website. One of the pages out of the seven that’s included is a seven step formula page for your kids ministry.

Alex Mills: Nice.

Brady Shearer: So much of attending a church for the firs time is what’s there for my kids?

Alex Mills: Yeah, for sure.

Brady Shearer: There are seven key items that your kids ministry page needs to include. We’ve got pre-written copy.

Alex Mills: It’s all there for you.

Brady Shearer: You can copy and paste directly onto your page, follow the seven step framework and you’re good to go. Of course if you’re using Nucleus, you could just create that page in one click. But in the meantime,

Alex Mills: That sounds easy enough,

Brady Shearer: … Get that download, prochurchtools.com/nucleus. It’s 100% free. Thanks for watching today’s episode of Pro Church Daily. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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 have these pages on our websites. Prochurchtools.com/nucleus is the place to download those.



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