A Welcoming Website for an Evangelizing Parish

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on January 9, 2018

in website

Saint Anselm’s Catholic Church in Chesterland, Ohio, is a welcoming parish.  This first impression was confirmed for me, when I met with the pastor, Father Tom Sweany, and some of his staff to talk about their need for a new website.  They wanted a website that conveyed their welcoming and inclusive spirit.

When I reviewed their website, I agreed that what they had did not represent them well.  Even though the content on the inside pages conveyed their warmth and clear pastoral approach to life and ministry—their home page and overall design did not.

The homepage design was totally empty except for a narrow left column. There was no fixed content. Someone had to create new content and images to fill the space all the time.  This type of homepage is a challenge to keep up-to-date and attractive.

Who is the Audience for a Parish Website?

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know what I always say.  Your website is the public face of your parish.  Most visitors are not regularly attending members of the parish.  They get the information they need from the weekly bulletin and announcements.

Usually parish website visitors are people who don’t know your parish or do not attend regularly.  They are looking for the Mass and Confession Schedules, the complete address and phone number, directions, information about various sacraments for themselves or their children, how to register, how to become a Catholic, how to come back to Church or they want to see your bulletin. This information needs to be upfront or at most one or two clicks away.

What Kind of Website Did Saint Anselm’s Parish Need?

Saint Anselm’s needed an attractive, low-maintenance website to address the needs of their visitors and to provide information that active parishioners might be looking for (times, dates, links to various services). I recommended and they went with an eCatholic® website.  We used the four-button, two-column version of the Bethany template which I helped design with eCatholic® in the late summer/early fall of 2015.

For those who are not familiar with eCatholic®, they provide free templates that parishes can use to create their websites. There is no design fee, but the parish must host the website with eCatholic® to take it live. The hosting fee is competitive and it includes their outstanding support.  Everything is drag and drop and you do it yourself.  (If you prefer a custom design, they will do that for you, but there is a design fee for that.)

Creating an eCatholic® Website

Even though I had contributed to the Bethany design nearly three years ago, this was my first opportunity to create a website with eCatholic®. There was a little learning curve, but as I already mentioned, their support is outstanding and their system is very consistent.  Also, they have short, step-by-step videos to help you navigate the different aspects and functions.

You will see from Saint Anselm’s new website that welcome is prominent and that visitors can find what they are looking for very quickly. The parish staff can choose how much content they want to be updating on a regular basic.  Currently, they are keeping the calendar updated, adding news items, and uploading the weekly bulletin.  They can change the photos in the rotating gallery at the top or leave it as is. Special content can be uploaded as needed, but when that is not available, they have an attractive and informative site without it. They can add and/or edit pages as needed.

eCatholic® also provides several Catholic drag and drop content modules i.e. the daily Mass readings, Catholic news from various sources, Bishop Robert Barron’s video series and others.  Any of these can be used to add interest to the home page and they update automatically. It is good to be selective in using these modules and remember that 1) Less is more 2) This content is an enhancement to the home page, but it is not what visitors are coming to see. Too many extras can clutter a home page.

Visit Saint Anselm’s new website and see what you think. https://www.stanselm.org.

Check out eCatholic® here. (FYI: I am an affiliate of eCatholic® which means if you start a trial through my link and go ahead to create the website, I receive a small commission.)

Your comments are welcome.


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