Defining what makes a great church website is always open to discussion but for the purposes of this article, we are looking at design, usability and impact. Content is clearly just as important and the primary goal of most church sites is to attract visitors to the church. Metrics to measure whether this is achieved successfully are not readily available but good design and content are very much linked to how potential visitors feel reassured and prepared.
When comparing sites, it should be remembered that the budget is likely to vary wildly, depending on the size of the church and the priority that communications are given by the leadership. For churches with more resources, the biggest difference is often seen not so much in the design and scope of the site, but in having the ability to employ a media or communications staff to keep the site and social media up to date. Bigger budgets also allow for better use of video, although with imagination and the right talent, it is possible to build and maintain a very good website without enormous expense.
The list below is not definitive or exhaustive, rather some examples of sites that have caught my eye while researching a broad cross-section of church websites in Britain. I’ve spent the last 15 years of my working life involved in designing church websites and it is always interesting to observe how design fashions and technology have changed and to see who is getting it right. So here in no particular order…
HOPE City Churches
This is a large group of churches with locations across the world. The landing page has eye-catching motion graphics and video with easy links to the local sites. The local sites consistently use the dark theme and with strong images and content based around blog post-style presentation. This format won’t work for every church but this the gold standard for a large church group.
Liverpool One Church
Big, bold and punchy, Liverpool One church have consistently had a strong website over the years. Great use of photography and video with clean design and typography – a site definitely designed to appeal to a youthful audience.
Kingdom Faith Churches
Another site that cleverly acts as an umbrella for a group of related churches while allowing each church to express its own identity. The logo and corporate identity are strong and in keeping with the fashion for simple and colour-neutral designs. The landing page guides you to the individual locations which have single deep pages featuring parallax scrolling background images. The conventional menu at the top is reserved for navigating between the locations while the main navigation uses a mobile-style-menu for the desktop site which makes the site structure easy to understand.
(As the designer of this site I may declare an interest…) This is how to do a small church website. The attractive colour palate sympathetic to the identity and country surroundings of this church, with the key information obvious for visitors. The site is built on the Church123 system, which allows churches with limited resources to easily manage the site. Many of the other sites shown here that use WordPress or other sophisticated content management systems which offer lots of options but require greater know how or a dedicated team to support site.
C3 Church, Cambridge
Built using the Church Insight platform, this site epitomises almost every single web design trend of the last 2 years. Simple colour-neutral logo, minimalist navigation, large dark-tone video dominating the home page, deep pages with parallax scrolling and a feed of beautifully shot Instagram photos. There is nothing wrong with following the crowd, especially if it makes for clear communication that works well on all kinds of devices. This site makes it look easy but a great deal of effort has gone into photography and copywriting to make this one of the strongest sites I’ve come across this year.
St Matthias, Plymouth
A site that stands out for its particularly strong images. The ability to capture really great photos of a congregation, church members and church staff are rare but St Mattias has pulled this off and used other stock images creatively throughout the site.
Kings Church, Manchester
Got to love the memorable URL for this church site which instantly makes it stand out. The home page has a rich image montage which can work as well as video and the site does a good job of breaking down a lot of information about a very active church in an understandable way.
Grace Church, Exeter
This site has a pleasant, airy simplicity and the unusual side navigation makes this site is a little more distinctive than many church websites. It is welcoming and easy to navigate.
Cornerstone Church, Newcastle
Very much in keeping with current website design trends but this site manages to convey its messages with attractive images that make you want to keep clicking to see more. They have struck a good balance between telling their story while resisting the temptation to put too much text on the website.
All Saints, Newport
This a website for a group of Catholic churches in South Wales. This site is quite distinctive amongst the others in this list as a more conventional and classical design. However, it is followed through with consistency and style and proves that the best websites are not the preserve of large or charismatic churches.
I’m sure there are other great sites out there that I’ve overlooked. Let me know what you think of this selection and other UK church websites that you think are are contenders for a top 10 and why.