Heal Your Church WebSite


Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Seven deadly sins of web writing

Not that we don’t have enough on our plate with planning, developing, implementing and maintaining our church websites, but we also need to take care that our content doesn’t make us sound like a bunch of know-nothing hicks. Think about it, if an individual is using the Internet to check out your church before they visit, then there’s a good bet they’re probably looking for something a bit more substantive than rambling pages of all bold, all red, all centered, flashing text screaming at you that the end is near.

Which is why I’d like to bring to your attention a useful little article entitled the ‘Seven deadly sins of web writing‘ by Gerry McGovern; who writes:

What’s the single most important thing that could improve the Web? It’s not broadband. It’s better writing. The general quality of writing on the Web is poor. The way you write has a major impact on what people think of you. Avoid these common mistakes and you will achieve more with your website.

Can I hear an amen?

As I’ve done with other such lists, here are some of the bullet points from the article, followed with my own explanation of how to avoid this on your church or charity website:

  1. I think I’m God. All too often I see church websites where the content is either all about the pastor or worse, is polluted with useless ‘geekery‘ that is between the lines, showing-off. The solution to this is to make sure you stay servant hearted. That is, all content is to convey the purpose and personality of your organization in a way that builds-up, provides solutions and/or solves problems for visitors.
  2. I go on and on and on …Say it don’t spray it.‘ Keep your home pages brief. Put your best content above the fold. If your page requires more than one or two taps on the Page-Down key, then you need to divide and conquer your content. If your tome covers several topics, then you need to create sub-categories with each topic getting it’s own page. If you have a long article or sermon, then it should also get it’s own page. If you want to include some content from a recent sermon on another page, offer an abstract with a [read more] link to the whole shebang.
  3. I can’t spell and I’ve awful grammar. We’ve all sin links to web pages that display embrarassing ‘signs and blunders‘ found in various church newsletters and bulletins. I’ve found the best trick here is to find someone in the chruch who does have good spelling and grammar, then set up a system with them by which they can proof read pending posts and/or report ugly errors.
  4. I’m locked in a print view of the world. Remember, people don’t read web pages, they scan them. Likewise, not everyone uses the same browser and/or screen resolution. Neither do they have all the same fonts nor may they perceive color as you do. The best solution I’ve found is making sure the page layout is liquid, and the color/font scheme basic.
  5. I’m not very good at writing headings. If you want people to visit your site via a search engine, then make sure that what you have between the <title> tags, along with the first twenty words of your text is compelling, gripping, riveting. If you can’t make that happen, find someone who can.
  6. Actually, I don’t think content is very important. Father Flanders is continually preaching that ‘Content is King.’ Jakob Nielsen offers boatloads of data crying out the case for content. And from what I gather from the over 20,000 unique page reads over at the sermon’s sub-site at RBC, and the outcries from visitors when the sermons aren’t updated, content is everything.
  7. Don’t have seven points if there are only six … Hah, hah, very funny.

How about you? Do you find the writing at most church websites compelling or crappy? Leave a comment and let me know.

8 Comments

  1. >> Can I hear an amen?
    .
    Amin.
    .
    -Frank

  2. 3. I can’t spell and I’ve awful grammar. We’ve all sin links to web pages that display embrarassing ‘signs and blunders’ found in various church newsletters and bulletins. I’ve found the best trick here is to find someone in the chruch who does have good spelling and grammar, then set up a system with them by which they can proof read pending posts and/or report ugly

    Cute Dean. I’ve sin that on many chruch web sites too.

  3. Very few people can write well enough to be cutting edge and informative in today’s world – but not irreverent. I think many web writers equate Godliness with stodginess.

    Rick

  4. I used to be a technical writer, and I think “stodginess” and “Godliness” (or whatever) are really broad generalisations.

    It really depends on what is appropriate for both the intended audience and the nature of the site. For example, writing your personal weblog is often much different than writing content for a church website (I’ve done both).

    There are things I can get away with passing off as my personal opinion that I wouldn’t want to foist on my church, volunteer org, and definitely my job.

  5. Nice site…though I did notice a grammar error on your front page! You are using “it’s” when it should be “its”.

    “It’s” = state of being, meaning “it is”. “I like constructive criticism because it’s helpful.” (couldn’t resist…hee hee)

    “Its” = possessive – “Each subject should have its own page.”

  6. FWIW, I think that the reader is king, not the content. Jesus adjusted what he said and how he said it based on the reader and so should the web writer.

  7. Ouch! I’ve gotta agree with Lollipop on that one.

    The website of my church is ineffectual because it is not updated. It is a static document that gives no reason for anyone to visit a second time!

    There’s a calender of a week on there, showing what happens on any given day. That’s all good, but this calender wasn’t changed when events, such as Awana and some of the small groups, were postponed for Christmas break.

    The only reason I look at the site is to get the phone number of the pastor, and that’s because I’m too lazy to look it up in the phone book.

  8. Doug pretty much nailed on the head the way my church’s website is… it’s ineffectual for the most part, because it’s not regularly updated… except for the calender. I pretty much have no reason to visit it.