Friday fun, or mandatory reading? You be the judge. For me, it is a little of both. I’m reading two recently updated tables of common internet usage and activities by the good people at the Pew Internet and American Life Project (PIP). Both have information that could be useful in convincing others at your church that your web site should be more than just a pretty brochure, or worse, attempt to emulate TV or movies.
First is the results for “Daily Internet Activities,” which is a a chart detailing the percentage of Internet Users who do a specific online activity on any given day. Notice that 59% of the population gets online, everyday. Primarily to exchange email. Followed by obtaining news, an activity followed by using a search engine.
Second is a chart entitled “Internet Activities” which deals with percentage of actual Internet Users (those who go online) who have ever done a particular online activity. Again the top three activities don’t change, but the fourth and fifth activities that follow are very interesting to those of us maintaining church and/or charity web sites. Researching a product or service before buying it and searching for a map or driving directions.
So what does this tell us? Here is how I interpret the results:
- Make sure your web host allows you to establish and maintain numerous listserves (automated mailing lists). Make sure the listserves are well supported with a user friendly/idiot-proof user interface. Teach those individuals who would use them, pastors and lay staff, how to keep their listserves maintained.
- The content on your web site must be presented in a fashion that is search-engine friendly. This includes simple things such as your <title> tags including not only the name, but the city and state/province of your church (e.g. Redland Baptsit Church Rockville MD or Redland Baptist Church Montgomery County Maryland). Another simple thing would be running a string of text links of major sections along the bottom of your site. A bit more complex, it is equally important that you have user friendly URLs. All these things add up to good search engine placement.
- Because it there is a good chance someone visiting your church may first visit your church web site, make sure you have easy-to-find, easy-to-read, easy-to-print information of how to get to your church. It may also useful to include the times of the services on such a page as I would think someone would print the info out the night before.
- Provide maps, or at least links to maps and driving directions.
- Conspicious contact information.
- Sermons, devotionals and other documents that convey what it is you believe.
- And something I just thought of, perhaps provide a page on where to go when you get there, such as Sunday school maps and/or what to expect in the sanctuary (e.g. dress, children, etc).
Of course, it goes without saying that all of the above need to be presented in a fashion that conveys the purpose and personality of your church.
At least that’s the way I read the data. So what did you get out of these tables? Leave a comment, and don’t be afraid to disagree.