There are many, many details that go into the development of a website. We all know that the home page of a website is key to its success. Therefore, it requires special thought and planning. In this post, I address the planning needed to create an effective home page for a parish website. Many of the principles can be applied to other ministry sites as well.
The home page of the parish website is the digital showcase, the display window, or front lobby of the parish community that it represents. It is the first thing visitors see and it needs special treatment. A welcoming/evangelizing home page addresses the needs and answers the questions of visitors first. Below are some guidelines and a list of essential and optional content that I think reflect an evangelizing, user-friendly, parish website home page.
General Guidelines for a Welcoming Home Page
- Witness that Jesus Christ is the center of your parish life
- Use good quality photos of happy members
- Keep videos less than 60 seconds
- Avoid the clutter of superfluous information
- Keep content timely and up to date
- Keep promotions/fundraising/recruiting volunteers secondary to the welcome and let us serve you messages
- Keep text succinct and friendly. Avoid paragraph length descriptions.
- Use clear, simple everyday language. Avoid jargon whenever possible.
12 Essential Content Elements for a Visitor Friendly Parish Home Page
- Welcome message focused on the visitor
- The Mass Schedule
- A link to directions near the Mass Schedule
- A simple, succinct tagline near the name of the parish in the masthead.
- A short list of upcoming events (linking to fuller descriptions)
- Complete address of the parish with zip code
- Office hours and phone number with area code
- Invitations/links for visitors interested in the sacraments, joining or returning to the Church or new to the area
- Links to your social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- Photos of happy members
- A section on the page where you can post “promotions” of special seasons, programs or events (typically an image or a video with a link to a page or a PDF flyer).
- A Contact Us button (usually on the navigation bar) that provides visitors access to the parish in as many ways as possible including email and phone.
Optional Items You May Consider if Appropriate to Your Parish
- Link to your parish app
- Link to your online contributions page
- Link to your prayer request form
- Link to the Daily Readings
- Links to select Catholic sites such as your Diocese, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, etc.
- Lead content for a blog or stories of parish life
As you plan your parish website, create a very specific list of what you want on your home page and if possible find examples from other websites that demonstrate what you like. If you have this information in hand before you select your designer, you will be better prepared to select the designer who can provide what you want and need.
I welcome your comments and additions.