How easy is it to find information on your website?
Weird is suddenly normal.
It’s normal these days to wear a button-up shirt with pajama pants. It’s normal for children to have a calendar full of Zoom meetings. And it’s entirely acceptable to dress up for taking out the garbage. COVID-19 has made everything a little weird.
Church leaders are adjusting to new patterns of ministry in this peculiar time of pandemic. It’s not clear how long social distancing and #StayHomeSaveLives will be around. Yet, one thing is already clear: It’s time to have an excellent church website.
Many congregations are relying heavily on digital media to continue ministry in the midst of COVID-19. Websites, livestream worship services and social media have become the primary ways to connect with people. It is suddenly very important for congregations to ensure a great user experience with these digital platforms.
There is just one problem: How can a congregation make this happen? What if you don’t have a highly trained web developer or media person?
Church leaders can use a few easy tools and techniques from the field of user experience (UX) in order to ensure that your website is easy to use. These tools are fairly simple, free and can be done remotely.
1. Test It Out.
It is important to test out your website on real users. Instead of entrusting the layout of your website to just one or two people, it is best to engage a larger number of people to help you test out your website. Since your church’s website is largely used by visitors and members of the congregation, these are the best people to engage when testing out your website.
This can be as easy as recruiting 10 people and simply asking them to perform a few basic tests. For example, you can ask people to access the livestream worship feed or to find the online giving feature on the website. Try this on a wide range of users with different ages, technological abilities and familiarity with the congregation. Have the participants record how long it took them to complete each task and how many times they ended up in the wrong place on the website. If nobody can find your livestream without making five wrong clicks, then you’ve got a problem. This information will give you a quick indicator of your website’s usability and design. Other tests such as card sorting can also be used.
2. Talk It Out.
Another easy technique for ensuring the usability of your website is known as a think-aloud. In this technique, you ask someone who is unfamiliar with your website to literally think aloud while using it. If you’ve never tried this before, it can be very uncomfortable. And it can be very enlightening.
Here’s what you do: Get on a video call with someone and ask this person to access your website and share their screen with you. Then have the person simply navigate the website while verbalizing every thought that comes to mind. For example, the participant might say, “Oh, I didn’t expect this to be here” or “This picture makes me want to click here.” You can ask the person to try completing a specific task on the website (i.e., find this particular information), but do not give instructions for how to get there. Repeat this exercise with several people and certain patterns will become evident.
Now is the time to have a usable website for your congregation. It does not matter if your congregation is a tiny little church or a triple-campus ministry. Gaining ground on this can be as easy as testing it out with some users, learning from these experiences and making the proper adjustments. It’s time to have an excellent church website.