AFTER you define the mission, determine the messages and content for the home page, name the components of the navigation bar, write and edit the content for the interior pages, you are READY to select a designer.
Many of you will admit that the process is often reversed and parishes select a designer first. When you do this, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage in terms of getting the best results. If you come prepared, your designer will be happy and in the long term so will you. (In order to avoid disasters and unhappy customers, many designers require customers to complete questionnaires (sometimes very lengthy and detailed) about what they want. These help to a degree, but you can save a lot of time if you are clear about what you want from the beginning—a design that supports your unique mission, message, content and audiences and you have the ideas and content the designer can work with.
Website design has come a long way in the past 25 years as websites and technology have evolved and changed. Parish websites do not have the same mission or functions as corporations, small-businesses, sports teams, etc. Good designers who work with a variety of customers and some who specialize in parish websites can create a very effective parish website working with a well prepared parish. The key is to find the right designer for you.
A Common Story
A few years ago a pastor asked me to give him feedback on his parish’s website as he was looking to update it. The pastor was pleased to tell me that their website was designed by a “parishioner who had his own website design company.” That gave me hope. However, when I looked at the website, I was very disappointed as it was poorly designed and poorly managed. I was curious about the designer and looked up his company. His other websites weren’t very good either. (I am guessing this was not his full time job.)
Here was a pastor that thought he had a professionally designed site (for free) and what he had was a mediocre amateur site. I told him that his site was typical of many start-up sites and that I could help him go to the next level and plan a welcoming, mission-based, highly functioning website. Also, I could help him find a designer who could produce it. He never called me back.
I looked up his “new” website today. He used the same designer. His current website is an outdated template with non-responsive design (meaning it does not accommodate various screen sizes). It does not serve the parish any better than the original site. He has a wonderful, out-reaching parish. You would never know it from their website. I feel bad for him. He wants what’s best for his parish, but he can’t walk away from this volunteer. This happens more times than you think.
To Be Continued
There is much more to say about website design. I will continue this topic next week and cover templates and companies that specialize in parish website design.