If you're looking at a new or improved website for your church, ministry, or Christian organisation, then here are 10 aspects worth considering. Whether this is a whole new website or just updating your current one, and whether you’re doing it yourselves or you're looking to involve a website designer, these are applicable for everyone.
If you do outsource the actual website creation to someone else it's important to know these anyway, as you can help steer the design in the right direction, make sure things are not missed, and make sure people think outside the box a little for some new aspects and make sure the obvious ones don't get missed.
I’m a born again Christian myself and have helped build and then market church and ministry websites. In this day and age, a great website and online presence is such an important tool, whether that's for new people finding out about you, or regulars having an effective way to know what's happening. Of course this is only ever just a tool at the end of the day, but as far as tools go they’re very important.
So here then are the 10 website design and marketing factors to bear in mind:

1. Get the Right Website Domain Name and Package 

There's a separate post here on this, and includes making sure that you choose the right name, and that you get your own name and related hosting package right from day one. 
For more short-term blogs or say missions it can work out best just to go with a freebies online with the website name as part of the company, for example Word Press or Blogger. But for any long-term longevity then I'd make sure it’s set up separately and correctly from the beginning. 
If you're in a situation where you already have a website, it can be difficult to through contacts to actually get hold of log-in information, and often it is worth moving onto a new hosting platform, or in some cases even starting all over again with a new website name altogether. This does get quite technical and confusing, but it's integral to the whole website and online presence afterwards, therefore do contact me if I can help shed any further light on your own situation.

2. Use the Right Website Design Software

In the majority of cases I recommend software that will basically automatically upload to your website and have all the kit there ready to go. They're often free, and you can then easily log in online and begin designing the website behind the scenes. 
Although this sounds straightforward and affordable, the trick is to know what paid extras you do need and the experience or time commitment to learn how to assemble together. 
I personally use a piece of software called Joomla, but a popular one and good one to learn with is Word Press, so long as you do upload it on your own website and don't work from their website. Once done, updating is easy, and you can have multiple people able to log in online and easily update the website in future, maybe an administrator for general things, and the youth leader for, say, a youth section, or someone heading up mid-week groups and adding helpful resources and notes.

3. Select the Right Template 

This is the fancy bit, and how the website actually looks. It's the general shape and feel of every page, right down to the selection of background colour, blocks and bars of information, and organisation of them. If you're using set software like that mentioned above, then these can be automatically uploaded and take effect, with some free or others at a reasonable price. 
This is worth thinking through carefully, and realising that these actually should be far less complicated than what you might think, as nowadays it's the images and writing that really make a website. 
The best example I can think of is Google or Amazon, where the templates basically boil down to white backgrounds and blocks of information; less is more nowadays, and being minimalistic and simple can actually look far more sophisticated than something more complicated. With some great images and effects like slideshows and fading in and out, these can be enough to add that final wow-factor.

4. Having the Right Images

I actually admit nowadays that a good graphics designer is worth more than a website designer in many ways with websites. The way in which images and logos and adverts are displayed on a website will simply make or break it, period. 
With great images and then a simple background and arrangement like above, then you have a blessed website. So if you can, bring in someone good with graphics at this stage and begin getting this right. 
In terms of the types of images, aim for good natural shots of actual real people at church, whether having fellowship over a coffee, or worshiping in a service, or close up at people's smiley faces, particularly leaders as these pages are surprisingly very popular for people to look at. 
With today's technology these can actually be done by your own smart phone of digital camera, and with some online editing tools you can crop them, shape them up into, say, circles, and add special effects like being black and white. I always say to get the actual logo professionally done, but you can use online tools to help create your own designs for other things like different events and areas of church life, my favourite being Canva. 
Just on the practical side of adding these to the website, make sure they are saved in smaller file sizes than what you're naturally used to for, say, printing - as the bigger sizes will slow the website down - and save the file name of each photos into something related as this will help with your SEO, which we’ll go into in a short while (so rather than “IMG0325.jpg”, save as “newcomers-event-yourchurchname-yourtown.jpg”).

5. Choosing the Right Audience 

Okay, as you head towards actually creating the website you need to check something that may seem blatantly obvious but is so often missed. That's who is going to use your website.
These roughly fall into two categories. Firstly, any regular people at your church or group in order to find out the latest happenings through, say, notices and upcoming dates for the diary. Surprisingly though this is not as popular as you might imagine, as often social media postings such as those on Facebook are more effective, or even good old printed newsletter or leaflets at Church. 
In terms of what can work on the website, then it could be simple notices in a form of blog format, or maybe a calendar of events even linked to say Google Calendars. 
You also need to make sure it's easily updated, not only with current events but some way or maybe archiving older past events as this can help show and remind people of what has already happened, maybe with photos uploaded of the event afterwards, and can help again with your SEO by having additional pieces of relevant information being built up on the website.
Secondly, you need to think of new people looking to find you and attend your gatherings, whether already believers and maybe looking for a local Church to attend whilst visiting the area or relocation, or a group of people that you’re trying to target. 
The sort of information and almost layout of it will be different than your regulars, and no matter how hard you try to fine-tune it through the eyes of new people, you will still need independent feedback, lots of testing, and often a very straight forward approach (two popular areas will be the leadership and Sunday services for example with local Churches).

6. Updating the Right People 

Once your website is up and running, you’ll need to work out how best to update people with things on an ongoing basis. These are often up and coming events, or special announcements, or forms of newsletters. 
You may be able to upload a PDF document newsletter, or run a blog, or add calendar entries on the website. You’ll also need to see how this links to social media, as often regular members will tend to use, say, Facebook for regular information and updates, leaving the website more helpful for newcomers and visitors. 
You might be able to link these together, so an automatic post on the website goes to Twitter and Facebook, and gauge whether you just want basic event-style notices, or you want to develop more interactive sections such as key people and leaders blogging, or a separate youth group having more interaction. 

7. Installing the Right Google Gear 

This gets technical, but in short there’s two pieces of free Google ‘gear’ that will help you monitor the performance of your website online, and relatively easy to connect to your website after you have a Google account set-up, ideally just for the church or organisation rather than your own personal one. 
Firstly, there is Google Webmasters where you can upload a ‘Sitemap’ for your website as well as tracking ‘code’, which helps spot any technical issues with your website and SEO stats such as how many link to it. 
Secondly, Google Analytics logs who actually visits your website and what they do, providing data like how many visitors you have, what pages they went on, and how long they stayed there. This is important data to appreciate exactly what the website is used for in reality, not just what you think might be happening.

8. Submitting the Right Google Listing 

Not many people realise that Google has a separate note of any business and organisation that is separate to their normal website details in the search results. It’s kind of like a yellow pages listing, and you see them on a map or with a red flag at the top of any related results. 
If you’re a long-standing Church then Google will probably have noted your Church and address already, therefore you’ll simply need to update whereas otherwise you will need to go through the process of setting one up. We have more details here on this, and it’s important to remember that these details need to be accurate to not only help with your SEO on the main site, but for visitors and newcomers actually using and correctly arriving at your property. 
It is essential that if you have other buildings and congregations, make sure these are also shown and that people don’t mistakenly go to one building rather than another for a particular meeting.

9. Setting-up the Right SEO and Marketing 

SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ and is the process of encouraging your website to be at the top of any related Google search results. 
So if people are searching for a new church in London, and type in a phrase like “church London”, then if your church’s website is one of the top results this will help more people find you and be a popular way to practically let people know what you’re doing. 
There is a lot of hype and false promises about how to do this, when in actual fact it boils down to common-sense and honest changes that will over time help your ‘rankings’ Even though this might not be a priority now, it’s worth getting the basic website structure up and running with this in mind, with a post here on the 4 most important aspects to good SEO to be aware of.
In addition to Google, there are of course other online methods to help advertise your Church or organization on other websites and directories, whether in the Christian world or your local community where you serve.
Another important tool is emails, and being able to send out regular newsletters and information to people. You can get good-value external providers of this like Mailchimp, which you can connect ‘subscribe’ features to your website as well as add people’s details. It can also act as a helpful form of database of people’s contact details as well behind the scenes.   

10. Seeing the Right Impression

To finish off, there’s a very simple point of making sure that the website comes across in the best way possible for the best first impressions. Unfortunately there’s a danger to lose sight of this the more involved you become, and by adding more things to the website. 
One way to deter this is ask others for feedback, ideally other members or new people to look at any new website from new and see what they think; there’s also one great website called Peek User Testing which can arrange free online feedback for your website as well. 
Another great way to sharpen that first impression, is a clear introduction on the website, ideally with a nice introduction video clip. This doesn’t need to be fancy, and ideally would be your main leader or pastor simply honestly taking about what the Church or group stands for, and allowing the true vibe and blessing to be easily communicated to others. 

Getting the Right Church and Christian Website 

Going through these 10 aspects to good website design for Churches, ministries, and Christian organisations will help keep you on track to having a website and online presence that not only looks good but can perform. 
You’ll probably need to involve multiple people in this process, from decision-makers and leaders, to the actual website designer and graphic designer, therefore it’s even more important to keep these main things the main thing.
Please do contact us for any other queries and helpful feedback on your own website and ideas.