What's in this session?

  • The goal (0:38)
  • The results (1:05)
  • Part 1 - Primary Focal Point (2:40)
  • Part 2 - Responsive Design (4:55)
  • Part 3 - Speed Test (6:39)
  • Part 4 - Stock Photos Of People (7:04)
  • Part 5 - New Visitor Information (8:30)

Show notes and resources

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The Transcript

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. And today we’re talking about the five part, first impression test for church websites.

Brady Shearer: So, the number one goal of your churches website is to make a good, ideally great first impression as consistently as possible. So what we did was we put together this very extensive case study. We looked at more than 1,000 church websites and put them through, analyzed them according to this five part, first impression test. Again, the goal of this case study, very simple, answer the question: Does this church’s website make a good first impression?

We had 1,008 total churches in the case study. 32 different countries were represented, in there we had every single state from America represented, every single province from Canada represented and if want to learn more about how we selected the churches, you can read the full case study at blog.nucleus.church, but for now let’s talk about the results.

Alex Mills: All right.

Brady Shearer: To our dismay, 96% of the churches that we analyzed, failed the five part, first impression test. And truthfully when we saw these results, at least my initial reaction was, okay the test was too hard. We set the bar too high but as we parsed through the data even more, we found that sure 96% of churches failed the first impression test, but I think even more importantly eight out of every 10 churches, more than eight of every 10 in fact failed more than one part of the test.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: There’s only five parts, so that’s a 60% at most for eight out of every 10 churches. Less than 20% only failed one part. So even if for instance you think, “Oh yeah, I would have done this test a little differently. I think that part’s unfair, or that’s parts too arbitrary or subjective.” Even if you removed one part, from the five part test you’ve still got more than eight out of every 10 churches.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: And really when we came to deciding what should be a part of this test, we tried to make it very base line, very foundational. Like your website didn’t need to be original, it didn’t need to have world-class design, it didn’t need to be expensive, it didn’t need to be out of this world; it just needed to hit some basic check boxes.

Alex Mills: Yep.

Brady Shearer: Five in fact. So let’s do a little bit of a deeper dive into each of the five parts.

The first part was, your churches website should have a primary focal point. 76% of the church websites we looked at lacked this fundamental design property. A primary focal point is very simple, when you land on a website your eye should be drawn to a single location.

So within the Nucleus formula, in the Nucleus framework rather, it’s this big main headline. It fills the entire screen. If you decide to remove the headline, it would be the main feature card, with the image and the huge call to action. This is where your eye is drawn. We found with so many churches websites. They would try to stuff their homepage with okay an image here, call to action here, three more slides here. If you go to the blog, blog.nucleus.church and look at this case study, we show an example and we can show it on the screen here as well. Here’s what a primary focal point should look like in the Nucleus framework and here’s what one does not look like.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: In this example on the blog, if you’re listening head over there, I think there was three different call to action buttons, plus a big hero image and then four different other images underneath and that was before I even began scrolling and again I don’t even fault these churches, they’re trying to show as many great things as possible. But when we overwhelm people with choices it’s so much easier to just say, “I don’t need to make a choice at all.” Rather than try to parse through all the information, so you need to have a primary focal point.

Alex Mills: Sorry to interrupt you and sliders didn’t quite make that cut because sure if you had full width, full page slider you would think, “Oh that’s a primary focal point.” But before you know it, two seconds later it’s swiping away to another primary focal point. So there were multiple focal points …

Brady Shearer: Yes.

Alex Mills: … and it wasn’t quite accomplishing the goal that a primary focal point should. So if you have a slider as your primary focal point, didn’t make the cut.

Brady Shearer: You know Google tells us that websites with low visual complexity are most preferred by users.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: And that’s why you need this one primary focal point. First impressions are happening in 0.05 seconds. You only have about 10 seconds before users decide to click that back button or stay on your site. To force them, to parse through, one, two, three, four, five, six different things, that’s just making their job way, too difficult.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: You need to give them just one main thing because that’s the best way to keep them based on the data we have, on scale from reputable companies like Google and Stanford and so that’s why we need primary focal points. That’s part one.

Part number two is the responsive design. 40% of church websites we looked at were not responsive. And this is important because in 2017 worldwide mobile traffic accounted for more that 52% of all traffic on the internet. So that means that more than one in two, the majority of internet traffic is coming now from mobile devices. And four out of every 10 church websites we looked at in this group of 1,008 from 32 different countries, weren’t mobile responsive.

So you’d hit it on your phone, you’d be like, “Ah, oh my.” And basically when that happens is you’re just sacrificing the majority of your internet traffic.

Alex Mills: This number surprised me because a few years ago, mobile responsiveness was kind of like a new thing and wasn’t quite industry standard but now it feels to me like, mobile responsiveness is just like a given.

Brady Shearer: Sure.

Alex Mills: Websites should almost be built mobile first nowadays and so responsiveness isn’t really even a selling point for website builders anymore, it’s kind of just a given.

So I was wondering, four out of every 10, around 40% of church websites are not responsive? What are we using to build our websites? Because it feels like its industry standard to me at this point. How is your website not responsive?

Brady Shearer: I think what we found in this case study was that its easy to live in an echo chamber of church communicators online and most people in Pro Church Nation, if we only looked at Pro Church Nation websites, I don’t think we’d get four out of 10.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: The thing is a lot of church websites haven’t been updated in five to 10 years.

Alex Mills: Wow.

Brady Shearer: They set them up once and just assumed, yeah as long as I update it to make sure Easter and Christmas show up, I’m good.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: We found that again, and again and like I said, it’s easy to just think it’s fine because yours is fine and the churches you hang out with in the group that you run with is fine, that may not be representative of churches on a whole.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: Part three, 38% of church websites failed the speed test. We used the Pingdom website speed test for this, you had to get a score of 80 or above B, letter grade or above. If your website loads in three seconds, instead of two, two times as many people are going to abandon your site because of low speed times or high speed times rather.

And that’s going to affect your Google and search engine result rankings as well. So your website needs to be fast.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: Part four, this one is close and dear to my heart, 32% of church websites contained stock photos of people’s faces. This may not be something that most people listening would think would be such a big deal. Who cares if I use stock photos of people’s faces? Just imagine this for a second. Imagine you bought a ring online.

Alex Mills: Okay.

Brady Shearer: So let’s say you’re on Etsy. Etsy’s the online market for handmade items.

Alex Mills: Yep.

Brady Shearer: And they sell a lot of rings. Let’s say you bought one there and there was this big product photo and you saw this beautiful, amazing ring. You buy the ring, it comes to your house, you open up the envelope it comes in and the ring doesn’t look anything like the picture. You would be furious.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: That would be lunacy. They completely mis-represented their product. Churches are different, we’re not selling a product that you can buy but our product is existential matters of the heart.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Hope, community, purpose. Best way to represent those is people because that’s the heart, we are the body of Christ. That’s the best representation that we have. And so if you are putting up a representation that is not your church, disingenuous, it’s deceptive, it’s a lie and it might not hurt your first impression immediately unless it’s clearly a stock photo and sometimes you can see right through them.

Alex Mills: Oh yeah.

Brady Shearer: But it will ruin your first impression when someone walks through your building’s doors and see okay, this church doesn’t look anything like their website did.

Alex Mills: Exactly.

Brady Shearer: Do not use stock photos of people faces.

Alex Mills: You know maybe we should talk about this more in a future episode.

Brady Shearer: I think you are right. I will write that down and make note of it.

Alex Mills: Okay.

Brady Shearer: Final part of the five part, first impression test is readily accessible, new visitor information. 62% of church websites do not have easy to find, new visitor information. When it came to this case study, it took a team of about 10 to do it because there’s so many websites. What was cool was we were visiting these websites as new visitors.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: Because we had never been to these websites before and it was so difficult on so many of them, to find new visitor info. I’d see things about their potluck and their men’s retreat and their sermon series and I wouldn’t find anything about me. Like I just want to know what your church believes or when you meet, where do you meet? What should I expect? Just imagine, if you’re a pastor or a church leader, imagine someone walking through your doors on as Sunday and you know they’re a new visitor because 80% plus churches are 250 or less, you probably know when a new family, or new visitor comes through.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Imagine they got completely ignored. No one talked to them, no one acknowledged them and a whole Sunday went by, they came in through the doors, they left through the doors. Not a single person. That would be a travesty. Thing is your first impression isn’t happening in service on Sunday anymore.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: Or in your parking lot, it’s happening on your website. More than half of church websites are doing that exact thing digitally that they would never do or would at least grieve over happening in their own services.

Alex Mills: And this one’s the most important to me personally as a pastor and just as somebody who works in a church. People are visiting your website as first time visitors and they’re asking questions. They want to know what you’re like, who you are, what you believe, where you meet, when you meet, what to expect. These are the questions they are asking and we know that and so we need to preemptively answer these questions.

Brady Shearer: Yep.

Alex Mills: And have that information, prioritize that information on our websites because that’s who our websites are for, they’re not for our congregation. Our congregation will use our websites, but it’s not primarily for them, it’s for our first time visitors.

Brady Shearer: That’ll do it for today’s episode of Pro Church Daily. If you want to see the full case study, blog.nucleus.church is where to find it. All the results, you can download the entire case study in a pdf form and see every single website that was included, blog.nucleus.church. Talk to 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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