Whiteboard: Ugly Church Websites

A lot of churches struggle to create websites with great design and function. In today’s Whiteboard session, Elexio team member Rodney discusses what makes a church website ugly and what you can do if your church is making those mistakes.

Video Transcription

Hi, and welcome to an Elexio Whiteboard. Today we are talking about ugly which can be a bit of a sensitive topic. If I’m saying your baby is ugly, or your shirt is ugly, you might feel a little offended by that. Hopefully, you won’t be offended today when we talk about ugly church websites. And before you turn off the video thinking that, “Hey, my site looks great,” we’re going to talk about how sites can be ugly on the outside and ugly on the inside. Let’s get started with outside ugliness.

One of the fastest ways you can make your site ugly on the outside is an overuse of kingdom color. What I mean by that is there are colors that the church uses: royal blue, purple, maroon, deep red. Those are some of the colors that we sometimes associate with Jesus. It’s a great thing for the Easter cantata, not such a good thing for your church website. If you’ve overused or exclusively used kingdom colors on your site, it’s a great way to get started down the path of an ugly church website.

Let’s look at number two, warped faces. You know, I love it when I go to a church’s website and they’ve chosen to put the staff directory on the site. It’s a great way to connect and feel like you maybe know these people and really get used to who the pastors are, but it can really go wrong if those faces look like this or like this. They’re all stretched out one way or another, or maybe they’re a little fuzzy. Well, that’s a sign that when you loaded up the picture it didn’t fit properly. And things go wrong when we don’t pay attention to the quality of our photographs on our site. So if you’re looking for ways to make sure that your church website isn’t ugly on the outside, take a hard look at the photos that you are using. Are they fuzzy? Are they warped? You’re down a path of ugliness if they are.

Number three, I’ve seen that guy. What I mean by that is in my line of work I have an opportunity to visit a lot of church websites. I’ll notice that the same photos are used on different sites. And it’s the use of stock photography, which certainly has its place, but if you take a look at your site and it’s exclusively using stock photography, you may have a problem. Also, I would say, take a look at the churches in your area. Look at their sites. If you see some of the same pictures being used, you have the potential of ugliness on your website because you overused stock photography.

The last way that you might make your church website ugly on the outside really relates to content as opposed to design. Most of these things are about design. Papa Bear here is a way that you can make your site ugly on the outside because it has too much content. Or I might say in Papa Bear terms, it’s hot with content, because we know Papa Bear’s porridge was just too hot. Your home page can get in that same way if you’ve tried to put everything there. You’re talking about upcoming events, and what your church’s methods are, and beliefs are, and you’ve got a thousand pictures, and all those things, and you’ve overloaded your home page. You may have good choices here but a bad choice here, you’ve got Papa Bear syndrome and your website has stepped over into the world of ugly.

Well, there are potentially other ways that your site could be ugly. Here’s what I would say to fix it. Gather a team of people who are willing to speak frankly about what the site looks like. Take a hard look. Look at other sites of churches in your community across the nation and then get help of some sort. There are professional organizations that can help you. Find a pathway to solve these problems. It’s really not that hard.

Now, let’s look at something that is a little bit harder, though. What if your church website is ugly on the inside? Now, what I mean by that is, first of all, Web 2.0, and it came and you missed it. Now, I know what some of you are doing, because you’re that kind of folks. You’re out looking for some update you were supposed to install to the internet that is Web 2.0. That’s not what that means. It’s simply a phrase to refer to a movement in websites that would make them more interactive. Think Facebook. I mean, that’s the poster child of Web 2.0.

But church websites can do it as well. I’ll give you an example. Wouldn’t it be great if your regular attenders could hit your website and not only do online donations but be able to run their own contribution statement right from your site, and not just for things they’ve given online, for all types of gifts. That’s a great way to simply make your website 2.0 compatible.

There’s others. How about small groups? Could you give your small group leaders the ability to take attendance from your website for the small group meeting that’s happening at their house? That’s also a great way to make your site lovely on the inside, because it has functionality for the people who attend your church. Web 2.0 strategies, those are some things. And there are many more. Dream up what could our site be as a resource for our church. Web 2.0.

The third way, I think, your site can be or could be ugly on the inside is one size fits some. In other words, your site is one size fits some. Now, you may have already noticed on the video that I have an extremely large head. When I go to buy hats, I’ll sometimes pick up a hat that says one size fits all. And I pick up the hat thinking it’s going to fit great, and I put it on, and it doesn’t, because it’s really one size fits some. And I would say the same thing about some of your website. If your site doesn’t respond well to mobile device traffic, in other words somebody visits your site through a mobile device and they have to do a lot of pinching and scrolling to make it look right and even see what the content is, your site isn’t responding well to mobile devices. You can solve that problem. You can make your site, have design that fixes that problem.

The third thing that I would say could make your site be ugly on the inside is Fernando’s Hideaway. Now, stick with me here. There was a skit on Saturday Night Live done by Billy Crystal, and the guy’s name was Fernando. He hosted a show, and he was over the top, he spoke with an Argentinian accent, and he had a catchphrase at the end of his show. And the catchphrase was this, “I’d rather look good than feel good any day.”

And I would say that the same thing happens with some websites, and it’s actually the opposite of the problems we talked about over here. You’ve gone so far down the path of great design that you’ve forgotten that 43% of the people who visit your site, any site, all church sites, those people are looking for your service times. If you’ve made it so cool that they don’t see this quickly, you may have a site that has gone ugly on the inside because it’s not helping the people who visit it.

There’s other ways that you could make an ugly on the inside mistake. There are other ways you can make an ugly on the outside mistake. We’ve just mentioned some of them here today. The key point for all of these is you need to be the hero at your church. And I would say that you can do that simply by gathering a group of people together, taking that frank look, and then finally get some help. There are ways to help here. These are potentially a little more complex. This is one of those areas you’ve got to look at your church management software and see does it connect potentially with our website, and if it doesn’t what are we going to do about that.

Well, I want to close by just simply saying this is Biblical. Now, I may be out there a little bit, because I know what you’re thinking, “There’s nothing in the Bible about good design or websites at all,” and I agree, there’s certainly not. But there are things that talk about that the folks who are singers in any service where we’re honoring and worshiping God, that those people should be well trained. The Old Testament specifically talks about that.

And I would say the same thing about these. This is the modern world, and if your site has ugliness in one way or another, and you’re just trying to solve it on your own, you could be in danger of not having a fix. So, again, be the hero at your church. Thanks for watching an Elexio Whiteboard.

Need help with your church website? We can help! 

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

5 Comments
  1. David v prasadarao Jalli

    Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy…….
    Thank you for your guidelines.

  2. Jeff

    You mentioned that making it possible for a small group leader to track/take attendance at home via the website would make the site more 2.0 friendly. Is this feature available with Amp Vide and Fusion integration? If so, how would I do this?

    1. Emily Kantner

      Hi, Jeff. Yes, you can do this with the Vibe and Fusion Integration. I’ll shoot you an email so we can help you get started!

  3. Eric Dye

    Great video, guys!

  4. Laurie Neumann

    Good article. I’d like to comment on a few points.

    First, one of my pet peeves is unclear pictures. If you’re going to use images, make sure they are good quality, clear pictures. Otherwise, don’t use them!

    Secondly, we will use stock photos if we have to. For example, if we are creating a website for a smaller church who doesn’t have someone who takes good pictures, they may not have many church pictures. In that case, we’ll use stock photos, but we do try to find different ones that you don’t see all over. But ideally, visitors to your site want to see actual people and actual events at your church. So, if at all possible, those images should be used.

    And, I totally agree that you shouldn’t sacrifice usability for coolness. Make it really easy for people to find where your church is located and the times of your services.

Comments are closed.