Church Website Guide has published an article in Christian Computing Magazine for October 2009 titled: I'm New, the Home Depot Approach to Why Your Church Website Needs to Answer a New Visitors Unspoken First Question in 10 Seconds or Less. You can check out this article about church websites and their most accessed content other than the homepage here: http://www.ccmag.com/articles/articles.php?recordID=214 We have included part of the article below.
I'm New! The Study Results
In our church website analytics study of more than 50 church websites, we discovered that the most accessed content on church websites other than the homepage falls into a grouping we are calling I'm New. These are pages related to people attending for the first time, those who are looking for service times or locations, those looking for other information about the church and its beliefs and doctrine, or those who have no knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The most important church website content
For our survey respondents, a quarter indicated that I'm New church website content was the most important to them of all the content on their church website. The only content considered more important was Sermon downloads. Other church website content in the study included, media, events, ministry, and group related sections. In our study, visitors to I'm New content view each page on average for one minute, and about half the time, they leave (bounce) immediately.
Ready to Engage Church Website New Visitors
A clear I'm New section sends a signal to the user that this church has thought about and prepared for their needs whether they know or don't know what they are looking for. This church realizes that the person who clicks on I'm New wants information right then because they want to engage the church on some level. I need this, where can I find it? If the process of finding out information is difficult, someone is likely to leave and may end up not engaging that church again. This is something that falls under basic web usability 101.
Church Staff, Locations, Times, and other Visitor Information
A third of our surveyed church members said they accessed church staff, contact, or other visitor information at least once a month, and almost half sought out information about their pastors, elders, and other leadership at least once a month. It makes sense, if you're looking for a church, or even curious about the church period, you may want to know about who is in charge, and also how to contact them.
Our church website analytics study also indicated that over three-quarters of our respondents access service information such as times, locations, and directions at least once a month. Half of those checked out church service information weekly. Could you imagine trying to find out where a church met, or what time it met, and not being able to easily find that information with one click? This is information people are trying to access all the time, whether members of the church, or not!
Church Website Content: What do you believe? What's your story?
Almost half of all visitors are browsing through their church's beliefs/mission/values at least once a month. The same amount looked up information about their church's history or story at least once a month, and half of those look up this information every couple weeks.
Newcomers want to know about your church before they visit
Having the church's beliefs, mission, and values readily accessible is critical because newcomers, whether they are saved or not, will want to know not only what that church believes, but also how that church carries out what they believe. Believers who just arrived in town will especially want to know about your beliefs to determine whether they should even visit your church in the first place.
Knowing what they are getting into
Nowadays, when people look for churches, they turn to the Internet to find out as much as they can about a church before committing to getting up earlier, packaging the children into the family minivan, risking getting lost, and walking into a strange, new environment. People want to be comfortable with what they can find about that church before they even enter the parking lot. Imagine the consternation of a family with multiple young children that arrives at a church only to find no nursery care is available!
Helping Newcomers Find What They're Looking For
Newcomers that visit your website have questions, they want to know about how your church operates and its culture, whether the beliefs of that church seem right, whether they can trust the leaderships stance, and for the unsaved, whether a conversation is even addressing them in a way they can understand. Let your church be the one that answers the visitor who says I need help/compassion/someone to talk to. Of special note, more than 90% of churches in our study did not have an easily accessible and understandable gospel message tailored to an unsaved person. Talk about missed opportunities!
One Final Tip- Make I'm New Content Easy to Find on Your Church Website
Having I'm New information that is not easy to find defeats the purpose of having an I'm New section. Park Community Church (www.parkcommunitychurch.org) does a great job of telling a new visitor clearly that yes, Park knows that the new person is important to them, and they also make it clear where to click so that the newcomer can get more of the answers they're looking for.
Throughout this article we've talked about some of the things that your church communications and leadership team can start thinking about implementing. Creating an I'm New section that is easy to identify, and communicates clearly does not necessarily have to be expensive, the important thing is to get those conversations going on improving the content that is most accessed on your website, and getting your website prepared to answer those unspoken questions that people want answered. With some of these ideas outlined above, we hope your church website will be able to communicate more of what people need to know- before they leave it!