This is not a definitive list, or a ‘top-ten’ of church websites, but I thought it would be instructive to look at some of the best church sites to see what makes them stand out. Until recently many church websites were somewhat behind the times but this is no longer the case. Larger churches in particular are devoting a great deal of effort creating good content, great design and engaging with social media.
Mosaic Church, Leeds
This site is a far from the typical church website and has a very minimalist and simple design. Big bold typography and deep-scrolling reflect recent web design trends. Definitely at the leading edge of web design, it is truly ‘responsive’ website – ie the layout will automatically adjust depending on what screen you are using so its content and design is optimised and changes for mobile phone, ipad or PC etc.
What’s great: Bold, modern design allied to great photography.
Not so great: Hard to fault apart from an odd color palette and supersize text and images may not be to everyone’ taste
Christ Church, Mayfair, London
Another bold and modern site, with fully responsive design and similar to Mosaic church but with a softer more approachable feel.
What’s great: Generally clear and informative with great photography and navigation system.
Not so great: Slightly dated logo clashes with design and typography of the site.
Mars Hill Church, Seattle, USA
Love them or loathe them, Mars Hill and its Pastor Mark Driscoll are one of the most influential churches in the world. A large multi-campus church, their website is the gold-standard for church websites and succeeds in presenting a great deal of content in an attractive and manageable way. Navigation is nicely handled with complex drop down menus and sections and pages themed with custom-designed images and thumbnails. Obviously such a large church can afford a first-rate in-house professional web and media team and it shows!
What’s great: Great consistency of design and layout throughout a large site
Not so great: Hard to find faults!
Church of Christ the King, Brighton
A very confident bold design appropriate for one of the most influential churches in the UK. The homepage dominated by very large images. Quirky push-down navigation system and nice “related content” and “upcoming events” links within the site enhance the user journey though what is a large site with a lot of content. Winner of “Best Large Church Website” at the Christian New Media Awards 2012.
What’s great: Animated straplines below the logo convey the church’s values in a clever way without being distracting.
Not so great: Boxes butting up together at the bottom of the homepage don’t always work.
A punchy and vibrant site that doesn’t worry too much about design finesse but grabs your attention with strong graphics and a red/black theme. Welcome video and slide show animation on the homepage co-exist well and it feels like there is a lot going on with being too cluttered. Winner of “Best Small Church Website” at the Christian New Media Awards 2012.
What’s great: ‘In your face’ style of homepage in particular.
Not so great: Typography on main content pages is a little dull.
East End Church, London
A unique site for a small church that has real personality. This site proves you don’t have to be a large church to have great content. Preparing good written content and photography can often be overlooked but in this site the copy is provocative and speaks directly to its community in plain language. Its simple design has an unpretentious feel with photography that has an urban edge.
(*I must declare an interest as designer of this site)
What’s great: Great copy and images with straightforward, uncluttered presentation.
Not so great: Lack of updates about current news and events.
Zion Reformed Church, Ohio, USA
This site has shows no pretentious to be particularly modern and cool but is a good example of a small church site that is conveys friendliness and does not overwhelm the user with information or images. It is essentially an adapted blog but has been done with taste and style.
What’s great: Simple presentation of information and neat and consistent typography.
Not so great: Lack of images (in particular images from the church) can make some of the content pages feel a bit dry.
Planetshakers, City Church, Melbourne, Australia
Most of the pages of this site have intricate graphic design elements and it really feels like a work of art in places. Not a typical approach to a website look and feel but works great when a church can afford a talented in-house designer. Makes great use of social media to support the site and is sure to be very effective at engaging with a younger audience.
What’s great: Lots of depth and variety of styles without feeling disjointed.
Not so great: Main navigation rather small.
St Paul’s, Hammersmith, London
Effective and under-stated site for large thriving Anglican church with a traditional past but a modern outlook. Strong underlying grid for the layout with a good mix of information on the homepage and easy to find what you want quickly.
What’s great: Consistent treatment of images and handy crumbtrail navigation helps the user stay orientated.
Not so great: Some may think it feels a bit corporate.
Kingdom Faith Churches, UK
Really an umbrella site for 5 churches, this site has a great deal of content and it manages to keep good design consistency thought despite its complexity.
What’s great: So much content beautifully presented. Perfect example of how to use rounded corners in a website well.
Not so great: Possible information overload in places. Main text very small.