Twelve Common Web Design Errors
Originally published as "Ten Common Errors in Religious Web Sites" but the same principles apply for any website.
Copyright 2000, 2004, 2016 Rev. Gary Helm. All Rights Reserved.
Mobile First Ignored
Every website design should start with "Mobile First". There was a time when mobile web designs did not exist. Then there were mobile sites in parallel to the regular site.
Now with "responsive web design" (RWD) there is only need for one website, and that website should be designed with mobile design first, and traditional design second.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an Afterthought
Every website should be "search engine optimized" from the very beginning. SEO helps search engines find and know what your website is about, and in turn helps people find you when they use a search engine looking for what you are offering on your website.
Search engine optimazation should be developed into your website during the initial design phase.
Limited Means of Contact
If you are going to have a web site, it should go without saying, you might want web-visitors to contact you or visit your church. Does your web site give visitors enough information about how to contact you and your church? Be certain you include the physical address and your mailing address, your phone number and email address. It may be desirable to provide directions for those who are new to the area, or who are not as familiar with how to get to your church as those who attend regularly. Include the phone number(s), fax, and any email addresses for contacting the church.
Outdated Information and Under Construction
Unless your web site is a very static brochure, your web site should always be under construction. In other words you are always keeping your website up-to-date. (plus, never put a "page was updated on 'date'" on a static page, aka "a page that is not supposed to be updated.") Keeping information up-to-date is more than very important, it is a necessity. A web site is the place to let people know what they can do today, tomorrow and in the near future. Few things can be as frustrating to a web visitor than going to an events page to get details about this weeks activities and find the information two years out of date.
Lack of Information about Persons
We assume people know who Doctor-she-done-it is. Or, we may assume people know who the pastor is. The website is an excellent place to introduce persons to one another.
Gratuitous Technology and Graphics
If you have been using the Internet for very long, you have tried to open web pages with so many graphics, the page takes "too long" to open on your screeen. Or, you have been to pages with fantastic animations, preceeded by the notice "...loading", only to be disappointed by the discovery, the content was not worth the wait.
If the technology does not support the message you are wanting to present, you may want to consider if you need that piece of technology or not.
The other area of concern in the use of technology should be, consideration of those who visit your web site. Do the visitors have the band-width, or software to use the streaming video and presentations you are wanting to provide?
And one I frequently get "computer repair" questions about is when a person goes to a website with technical errors, but the error message to the visitor suggests there is something wrong with their computer.
Poor navigation in many church web sites can be solved by putting a link back to the home page. Nothing fancy, just a link. It is always amazing to me, how many church web sites act as a series of independent pages with no relationship to one another.
Smaller sites could have links to every page from every page. Larger sites should have more effective links, and the links should be logical to the user.
No Apparent Site Goal
"Having a web site" may not be reason enough for having a web site. What do you want to accomplish by having a web site? Does your web site accomplish this purpose? Is the purpose of your website obvious to the visitor?
No Apparent Understanding of User Goals
Create a reason for people to return to your website; otherwise, be surprised if they do. What is your understanding of why people visit your web site? What are they looking for when they visit your web site? If you do not know why people will visit your web site, they will probably not visit the web site again.
Lack of Interactivity
Persons are becoming accustomed to having something to do when they visit a web site. Include opportunities for web visitors to respond where they are, on the internet. This is a basic level of interaction. At the upper end of visitor interaction, the visitor is able to react and respond within the web site as well as within their living space.
"Simple" technologies now allow us to minister with people where they are, on the internet. Why should we wait for them to attend our facilities?
Lack of Affiliated Links
Remember, like a spider web. See my article on Cross-pollination.
"Thinking inside the box"
In ministry, we are not always "rewarded" for thinking outside the box, but on the Internet thinking outside the box in new and creative ways is needed.