The general consensus among people who study web traffic is that we have 4 to 10 seconds to connect with visitors to our websites. Longer than that and they are gone to the next site.
We need to engage visitors quickly. Therefore, we need to know what our audiences are seeking and be sure that it is visible and easily accessible.
We know that many visitors to parish websites want to know the Sunday Mass schedule and during the year they want to know what time Masses are on Ash Wednesday and Christmas. Think about the days when the office phones used to ring off the hook with people asking “What times are the Masses?” This is the information that needs to be readily available on the parish home page. Don’t make visitors have to guess where you put it or click three times to get to it. They won’t guess and they won’t keep clicking, they just click away.
Two other bits of information that newcomers and visitors want is a complete address (with zip code) and a complete office phone number (with area code) and you get extra points if you include the hours the office is open. It never ceases to amaze me to find parish websites that do not have any address information on the home page or that the information is incomplete. These websites were created with active members in mind, not visitors, but even members sometimes need the complete address and phone number when they do not have a parish bulletin near-by.
The next number to be aware of is that the average time a person spends on a website is one minute. If they can find what they are seeking in less than a minute, then maybe we can also interest them in other content that is valuable to them. This may not be the content we want to “push” on them i.e. the parish festival, the annual spring clean-up around the church, online giving, the Friday Fish Fry, or the current fund raising event. Certainly, we can tell visitors about these events, but so often I visit parish websites where the “ads” for these events overwhelm visitors and that is all that is there. When I see pages like this, I wonder what the mission (not mission statement) of the parish is. And then I wonder if anyone told the webmaster.
One of the most popular pages on our parish website is the Parish Staff page. Visitors want to know who is responsible for what and how to get in contact with them. We provide the name, position title, parish email address (not their personal email) and the office phone number with extension for each staff member. I have seen parish websites with parish staff listed but no way to get in contact with them directly or names just listed with no titles where you have to click on each name until you find the Director of Religious Education for example. Really? Really. We can and should be more helpful than that.
Time is Short
Time is short as it is and the time we have to connect with visitors on our websites is even shorter. If we do not answer their questions quickly, we can lose them in ten seconds or less and they may never some back to our site again. Think about it. Is that what we want?
Identify your website audiences and what they are seeking. Then check to see how quickly they can find it on your website. You may be surprised to see what you find out.