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14 March 2009

Data Entry = Stalking = 10 Things to Fix on Your Website

We recently began a data cleanup project in preparation for a BIG change to (I think you'll like it when it hits).

Project summary: Every person in the database should be connected to a church, company or organization. Of course this isn't the case half the time and even if they are connected to one of the above - the contact info for that church, company or organization isn't correct or complete. So we're going line by line through this list and doing a web search to find the correct information.

There have been a few companies and organizations but for the most part we're looking up church websites. And wow were my eyes opened.

I know a lot of the churches represented in the database are small churches that don't have the know how or resources to put together a cutting edge website. But today there are so many other options out there. Even a free blog can look more professional than a poorly done website.

In my searching I quickly put together the following list. Please don't take it personally. Simply look at it as a quick and easy task list for making revisions to your website.

Also - here are two great resources to help you take your website to the next level in a very systematic and structured way: First, read Less Clutter. Less Noise. by Kem Meyer (available soon). Second, attend the WEB Workshop on November 12.

Top 10 Things to Fix on Your Website

  1. Contact information: Sounds simple but you wouldn't believe how many sites had no contact information anywhere! Create a redundant page footer OR a "Contact Us" page that has at a minimum your address, phone number and email contact ( By the way, I don't need the phone number and email address for each pastor on your staff.
  2. Color scheme: Colors are picky about who they hang out with. Make sure to use friendly colors for your site - not random colors from rival gangs...
  3. Multiple navigation menus: I can't stress this enough. Use a whiteboard and visually lay out your site. Clump things into categories (big buckets) and then create your navigation from that. Keep this navigation consistent throughout the site so people don't get lost. This can be a huge task for churches with more than one campus. But getting it right means people will actually returning to your site.
  4. Bad pages/links/content: Website maintenance is really what I'm getting at here. Having a website is like having a new responsibility. You can't just put it out there and forget about it. Check it regularly for broken links, missing pages and out of date content.
  5. Promotional banners/graphics: Don't fall into the trap of creating a new logo and banner ad for every event and placing these on your home page. I seriously doubt each of these events is THAT important... As they add up so does the tension in my head. Keep all of your events on one page or in one location. Weight each the same. If something is BIG and needs elevated - move it to the home page as a small graphic with intro copy. Or add it to your large graphic slide show on the home page.
  6. The "inside jokes": I don't actually mean jokes - just thought it would help illustrate my point. I mean the events or ministries that have some obscure name that only people attending your church understand. For example: A large graphic/button that says "Jlife" or "T3" or "TheMax" without any explanation as to what it means. Even if you do describe it three pages in - the person hitting your site for the first time might be confused and not want to click that far in.
  7. Widget Overkill: Keep widgets to a minimum. I don't need a hit counter, weather bug and rss feed to local news stations on the home page - or any page for that matter. Keep your site streamlined and for the stuff people come to you for. If I want the weather I'll look at the weather bug on my Vista Sidebar.
  8. Basic functionality: People who use the web come to expect certain things. Make sure you aren't confusing them by forgetting basic principles or doing "cool" things that force them to learn new (unnecessary) skills. Examples: Links should turn the cursor to a hand. Email addresses should be links that pop an email client (not just plain copy that we have to copy/paste). Basic html beats graphics and flash hands down because people can select text. Etc.
  9. Search engine optimization: Your site wants to be found! Don't stand in the way of Mr. Google when he comes calling. Make sure your home page has "meta" tags in the "head" section at a minimum (go here for more info). Giving your website a description and keywords are what will get you found easily.
  10. Overwhelming content: Finally, please don't kill me with content. The eyes and the mind can only handle so much at one time. A good solution for this is to pull out the whiteboard (like while you are getting the navigation figured out) and do some soul searching. Figure out what information is vital. Get rid of the fluff. Turn big chunks of copy into bite sized summaries. Streamline. Streamline. Streamline. Less is definitely more on your website. People can come to your church to get the details.
This list is by no means all-inclusive. I simply picked ten things that stood out and seemed to be constructive vs. picky (meaning: if fixed they could help take the site to the next level).

Hope this was helpful.