Heal Your Church WebSite

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

How categorizing information enhances church website conversion goals

Not everyone enters your church through the front door, neither does everyone first visit your organization’s website comes via your carefully crafted home page. The question is, once these search-engine driven seekers find your site through such pages, are they encouraged and equipped to continue browsing your domain?

Conversion Goals

First things first, remember what the conversion goals are for your church or charity website. For those who are new here, conversion goals are actions in which we would like visitors to engage. I’ve got an entire category myself dedicated to this topic, but for those in a hurry, here are some examples of the type of desired actions I’m talking about:

  • visit a Sunday Service
  • register for a Wednesday night dinner
  • sign-up for the email newsletter
  • download and/or print a sermon
  • request a call

Information Hierarchy

Grouping your organizations information is one good way to offer visitors the ability to easily “drill down” into areas that interest them. While the structure of each church and/or charity’s information architecture varies, here’s a suggest list of main categories with which can be customized to suit your organization’s needs:

  • About Us – could include links to a staff page, the terms of use, how to join, and/or church history data
  • Events – abstracts into links into more detail, links to a calendar page, perhaps a place to offer RSS and ICAL linkage
  • Directions – with Google maps and other goodies, here’s a place to offer content that drives in searches by location
  • Ministries – more on this in a moment, but mostly links into individual pages describing ministries the church offers
  • Resources – a link to sermons, podcasts, useful URLs, photo galleries, steps to Peace with God

White Space is your Friend

The nice thing about breaking-up your site into main categories is that you can at first have a single “category” page to provide overviews that lead into sub pages of specificity as individual topics within the category become better defined online.

Put another way, don’t use the categories to create big, huge, monoliths of information that require 15 page scrolls get to the good stuff at the bottom. Instead, as each item becomes better defined by your web team – sub pages are spawned off to contain concise individual chunks of information on specific topics. A good example of this could be your “ministries page” which at first starts out as a single definition list, then evolves into the following sub pages:

  • Children’s Ministry
  • Missions
  • Music
  • Sunday School
  • Youth

Navigation Theme

I’ve seen some church websites – actually I’ve seen too many – where each “category” has a different navigation theme. While this may (or may not) make sense to someone visiting through the home page, it can cause confusion with a first time visitor coming in through something like your “directions” and/or “ministries” page. Some quick ways to remedy this are:

  • pick and stick to a main navigation menu throughout every page on your website
  • provide sub navigation by broad category that enables users to “drill down” into specific topics
  • make sure page titles match main menu navigation choices
  • make sure page sub titles match sub menu navigation choices
  • don’t get cute with the menu names, church speak only creates unnecessary barriers (not to mention page maintenance issues for the developer in the future)

Room for Growth

As one can see, there are several advantages to building one’s site around a well-defined organization architecture. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • works well with most CMS and blogging systems
  • popular sub-categories can be easily elevated into main categories, such as sermons
  • categories can themselves become “landing pages” or portals into the website
  • information along a specific interest can be aggregated in its own RSS feed
  • individual pages/articles can be farmed out across many individuals – reducing the need for one person to maintain a large site all on their own

Class dismissed! Now go visit my Jordanian journey post to see what I look like 100lbs lighter, atop the foothill that hold the Monastery at Petra or what I’m calling ‘Dean’s day at Al Deir.’