Examples of Good and Bad Church Websites
Neil MacQueen, Sunday Software, www.sundaysoftware.com
 

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This page has been updated and MOVED to http://sundaysoftware.com/site/webpage/

As well.... since posting this page several years ago, I have moved, updated, and continued adding to my "building a better church website" articles over at www.sundayresources.net/neil --My Church Tech Blog.


There are a lot of bad church websites --and some good ones. 

What makes a church site "good" however, is not just about its appearance. I've seen some good looking bad sites, and some bad looking good sites.

Some of the following links go to the actual site, some mercifully only go to screen captures I made of the website. There are SO MANY GOOD SITES now that I've decided not to keep posting links to them. Google around. You'll know a good one when you see it, --that's kind of the point.

Good: I'm a big fan of simple, fresh, inviting, lots of real photos, and nicely written.
Bad:  I'm not a big fan of expensive, flashy, hard to navigate, out of date content, and stuffy.

Admission: this webpage you are looking at doesn't look that great!  But I'm also not trying to get you to come to my church  

If your website is one of these "bad" ones, don't email me asking for an apology. Fix it. The person who created your site -or the people who didn't help create it should apologize to you. There is no excuse for "bad" when "not so bad" is easy. 


In my other article which you may have just come from, I have already made a list of GOOD and BAD things about church websites.  But not being able to leave well enough alone, I offer this ADDITIONAL LIST of Bad and Good for your consideration:

In general, a church website is "bad" if:

  • Out of date content.
  • Uninviting content. (I mean, look at it. Does it look like a place you'd want to visit?)
  • Amateurish design, color scheme, layout. With today's tools and inexpensive options, there's no excuse.
  • Your site demonstrates your web person doesn't know how to handle photos.
  • Conveys the wrong message, such as, "look at our bored faces and boring building, but please come anyway!"
  • The text and graphics look mis-aligned.
  • Too difficult to navigate (in particular, a confusing navigation scheme or one with tiny 'slider' menus)
  • Your content is poorly written, stodgy, or too "church-y."
  • The site doesn't give members a way to connect with each other or get automatic notifications, such as email newsletters.
  • Impersonal.
  • Under the dictatorial control of an individual, or designed in such a way that only one person can work on it, and the next person in charge will have to remake.

    See my "Building a Better Church Website" article for more details.

     

They are good if:

  • The site has a clear, inviting and easy to navigate design.
  • The site has nice graphics, PHOTOS of happy members, and thoughtful information on a wide variety of church ministries.
  • The site leaves the viewer with a positive inviting impression of the church community and atmosphere.
  • The site gives you more to come back to and explore later.
  • The site gives you a sense of what it's like to be there on Sunday morning (nice photos)
  • The site makes it easy to find and/or contact the church.
  • The site is a collaborative effort, and not dependent on one person's skill or control over the code.

A "good" church website does NOT have to be fancy. It is possible to over-do it, and usually "over doing" means one of two things:

1) You're paying someone to build you the Taj Mahal of church websites
2) The volunteer who's over-doing it will eventually burn out, and you'll be left with a fancy site that goes out of date in a month.

They are REALLY good if :

  • They allow members and groups to connect and communicate with each other (church websites should be for members, not just visitors)
  • You can actually maintain them and improve them over the years without paying a lot of money or burning through a lot of volunteers.
     

For more details on what makes a church website GOOD or BAD go to my full article: www.sundaysoftware.com/webpage.htm


Representative Examples of "Not So Good" Church Webpages: 

I hope and trust these churches have made changes. My screenshots here are for instructive purposes only. I'm sure the folks in these churches are wonderful. But I seriously doubt the pastor or council in these churches would have approved a BROCHURE that looked this bad, so why did they allow a website that looked this bad to go online?   Sadly, these are representative sites. When I update these graphics every year or two, I continue to find more just like them. And yet with today's free site-building tools (and good low cost one), there's simply no excuse.

Comment on Brittney's Woman's Association page....
I first saw that "Whoops the Women's Association" site back in 2004. I went back in the summer of 2007 and it was still there. The pastor moved out of state and I found him at a new website, which linked back to this Wayside site. Why would they do that ?!  Anyway... I emailed them to recommend they nuke the site, but got no response. Yahoo now owns geocities -where this church's page was hosted, and they now have new ads to go with the women's association picture. The ads read, "Date Lesbians" and "Date Black Women," which isn't a bad thing I suppose, but probably NOT what the women's association had in mind. Need proof:  here's a snapshot.  Fortunately, geocities.com is no more.

Examples of Good Church Websites

As mentioned, there are so many good ones these days, I hesitate to post a link and then find out later that they messed it up!  (That happens a lot with churches, someone blows up a good site and messes it up with a bad eye for design. It happens.)  And "good" can be BOUGHT at a high price, so I hesitate to say "yours should look like this" when I don't know how many thousands of dollars it cost that church. A church can literally spend thousands of dollars getting a new website, and then hundreds or thousands of dollars each year getting it updated. Those websites SHOULD be good. I'm more interested in the MODEST sites you can build for next to nothing, because that's what a large number of churches need to do.... look good on a dime.
 

Example of a good $20 website for a small church:

In 2009 I made this website for my church for under $20 a year hosted at Wordpress.com. The design tools are accessed at Wordpress.com's dashboard. I used one of Wordpress' templates and added our own header graphic (a photo of one of our outdoor worship services). The rest of the layout and navigation is all part of their free template.


www.stcroixreformed.org

Pretty good for an 80 member church and no web budget! It's best feature: the site automatically emails members when something new gets posted. Read www.sundaysoftware.com/wordpress.htm to find out how we did that.

Update: I no longer live in St Croix, and another volunteer has taken over the site. Hopefully they keep it up! That's the Achilles' Heel of any website. Wordpress makes it easy to hand-off the work, but it can't force the volunteer to do a good job. That's the pastor's job. hahaha.

 


MY LATEST CHURCH WEBSITE PET PEEVE:  

"Stock Photos of smiling people" ...purchased from stock photo collections, like the iStock photo at Journey Fellowship's website (right), or picked from the website designers free collection.

These photos scream lack of authenticity.  Seriously, if you can't take photos of your ACTUAL MEMBERS looking friendly and inviting in real events, you have a bigger problem than where to get your photos from.

Want more Do's and Dont's ??

I have moved most of my "Church Website" discussion over to my blog at www.sundayresources.net/neil

 

THE ACHILLES' HEEL OF EVERY CHURCH WEBSITE:

---It's one thing to
create a fresh site. But it's another to keep it fresh, and improve it.

My former church's website from the early 2000's used to look nice for its day.  It was a low-budget website I created in 2001 for my small church to introduce them to being on the web. It wasn't fancy, but it was fun to look at, had a lot of visitors, and was REGULARLY REFRESHED with home-y content, photos of events, and lots of function for both congregation and visitors. Eventually we had a team of four people working on it. After I stopped going to that church, however, the team disbanded and the site devolved into something bland, and out of whack. In 2009 they created it using Wordpress (seen below) but made it very bland, which isn't Wordpress' fault.  In 2012 it remained essentially unchanged.

Here's what it used to look like in 2006 --which was decent for a free 2006-era site. It was simple and regularly updated.

Here's what it looked like in 2008, 1 year after I left.
 

 

Here's what it looked like in 2009.

 

And in 2012...

They added a "donate now" button.

Word to the wise:

Good can turn bad, and fresh can turn stale. Do some planning to try and avoid that. To see my suggestions about how to avoid building a site that goes to waste, read my article on creating a church website.  


www.sundaysoftware.com/namebadger

 

Examples of Pretty Good Church Webpages:

At the time I posted these links, these pages looked pretty good. Each has some room for improvement, and I mention those tips below. What you don't always know HOW MUCH MONEY they spent to get them looking like this.

I've maintained this list for several years now, and its AMAZING TO ME how many "formerly pretty good" sites I've had to drop from this list. i.e. Somebody came along and screwed up the site.

I selected each of these because they are different from each other and do something interesting. But as mentioned above...a site can go bad!  If you notice that with any of these, email me at neil@sundaysoftware.com  If you find a good volunteer-created website that you think belongs on this list, email me!

Community Church... nice design. Easy on the eyes. Actual photos from the church! Made using a sitebuilder-type host that gives it a clean look.

Arborlawn UMC ... a smaller church with a very nice looking website.

Saddleback Church....Rick Warren's Church. This is a mega site that probably has a mega budget and professional web designer. But it shows a lot of interesting ideas and how media can be incorporated into a site.

Destiny Church... ORIGINALLY had a very creative, non-traditional frontpage. Then ...they changed it...more hodgepodge as of 4/08. Whoops X 2 ...seems to have gotten worse in 2010. Layout is odd. Which just goes to show you. 2012: Okay, now they've improved it!   Good job. Only, why the grey and black scheme? Not so appealing.

Believer's Church... they paid a web dev person, and came up with a nice site that doesn't look cookie-cutter. Only thing I didn't like was that they have moved all the photos into a photo gallery area, instead of putting them (or links to them) on their ministry pages. Makes them harder to find.

Shelby Crossing Church.... informative, made with templates from a make-your-own church website service. But they keep changing the color and in Lent it was a hideous purple and black template. They have also removed photos of their programs in action --which is a mistake. When I view the Sunday School page, I should be able to see pictures of the facility and program in action!

St. Croix Reformed... a good example of a nice looking Wordpress created website that's functional and colorful and costs us less than $50 a year. I created it for my former church i 2010 and have since handed it off to a volunteer there who had never done websites before, but is doing well with it because Wordpress makes it easy.


Resources and Caveats...

Read my full article about creating a better church website

Read my article about Building a Good Church Website with Wordpress

If you're really a Church Website Nerd.... visit and bookmark "Heal Your Church Website"   http://www.healyourchurchwebsite.com/      This is a daily 'blog' with lots of articles, examples, links and tech talk. A little hard to navigate, but appropriately acerbic and detailed.

Need Help Creating a Site?  Go to http://www.e-zekiel.com  ....a solid church website building service that maintains a ton of templates and graphics for you to customize your own site in minutes. They have some technical stuff you can just 'turn on' to have at your church website. Reasonable prices too. Just please stay away from the hokey "stock" images.

Be careful!  There are a lot of "we'll build your church website" companies on the web which are second rate. Look at the company's website for starters. Does it look like they know what they're doing? And then check pricing. Churchsites.com for example, has lots of features, but is expensive, and may be overkill for the average church.

 

Confession:

The page you are viewing is pretty basic --which is OK because it's a free "how-to" article, not a church you are looking to make your faith home. 

Have a church website to submit to these listings? Email me at neil@sundaysoftware.com