I reviewed about 100 top rated church websites to determine what the typical church website looks like. To be clear, the intention wasn’t to determine what the best church website should look like; but rather, what people believe the best church website should look like. I make this distinction because there is a danger in taking the creativity out of the web design process. Technology changes too fast for there to ever be an “ideal” church website. Church websites should be constantly evolving. Having said that, looking at the typical church website is a good place to start.
Let me break it down, top to bottom, left to right.
Site Width – Most of the sites I reviewed have broken away from the tradition 960 pixel wide site in favor of 1200 px, 1400 px, or 100% width.
Church Logo – I was surprised to see that a lot of church websites still have a “Home” menu item instead of adapting the new standard of just using your logo to return home.
Service Countdown – (or event countdown) These are becoming more popular and have replaced your typical worship time announcement. This make sense because worship times are subject to change and often times visitors want to know “what’s next”.
Search and Social Media Icons – That has largely remained the same, though I’ve seen people add the “calendar” and “log-in” icons here as well.
Menu – Most of the churches I’ve reviewed have opted for a full width menu with large titled menu items with sub titles. These are visitor friendly because they allow you to add context. Some sites use the two menu strategy still, a large one for visitors and a smaller, detailed one for insiders.
Main Feature – This could be a single image or a slider of images. The trend is for these to take up all the space about “the fold,” the visible area of the screen. You loose all your real-estate but you gain a focused message. Some sites would include a call to action, some text with a button to act on something. Still others sites would have a listing of upcoming events. I like that strategy for small to mid-sized churches.
Ministry Banners – This is where the church will highlight it’s various ministries. There are two strategies employed here. The first is to sub-divide the ministries by category. The second is to highlight the ministries that you are currently focused on.
Media Area – This is the area with the most variation among the sites I review, however, it almost always contained some form of media, or excerpts, leading to media.
Footers – The four options listed were the most popular but rarely did a church employ 3 or 4 of them. They almost always contained a menu tree or quick links of some sort. The social media section was the second most popular. The copyright section has never really changed.
So what site most typified the prototypical site? That award goes to Mars Hill which is surprisingly close to the prototypical site, for good or bad.