Under Construction? Just, Don’t.

If I had a dollar for every church website that had a big, bold banner saying “This Site Is Under Construction,” I could fund a private server for a year! (That would make the site run faster) Way too many church websites are “under construction,” which basically means that someone started a project and then put it off, and it will never get done until someone else comes along and creates a new website, which more than likely will be “under construction” as well.

In a situation where real, current work is being done on a website, making it unusable, most modern CMS (Content Management System) platforms have a “Maintenance Mode” option, where visitors are informed that the site is down for maintenance. This is handy if drastic changes are being made to a site, but long-term, slow development is not a good way to run a site.

So, to help churches prevent the long, slow agony of a perpetually “under construction” website, here is a simple checklist to help you prepare for a new web project.

First, For each of the pages, you need the following elements:

  • Path, or page address (e.g. www.church.com/this-is-the-page-address) – know what you want your pages to be called
  • Images – make sure you have any pictures available before you start your site; it’s easy to get sidetracked and forget
  • Copy, or text – Know what you want to say on each of your pages

SEO note: You want each of the images to have “alt” tags that are relevant to the page content, and your text should be at least 300 words per page. That seems like a lot, but Google will love you (and don’t copy/paste, or search engines will think it’s duplicate content, and your pages won’t rank in search).

Now that you know what you need, let’s take a look at what pages you want your site to have. I covered this briefly in a previous article, but here it is in more detail:

  • Home page – brief introduction, forego the “Welcome to our website,” or “Thank you for visiting!”
  • About us/Doctrine page – people want to know what you believe, so  place it front and center (again, no copy-paste: be serious and write your own)
  • Ministry pages – one for each major outreach that you engage in, such as: (not exhaustive)
    • Bus/Van
    • Children’s ministry (AWANA, Master Clubs, King’s Kids, Kids4Christ, Patch the Pirate, etc.)
    • Teen ministry
    • Addictions program (Reformers Unanimous, Wallbuilders, etc.)
    • Radio broadcast
  • Contact/Location – combine your location, mailing address, and contact email/form on one page
  • Sermons – self-hosted or embedded audio or video from YouTube or other provider of your services

Every church situation is different, and will require varying tweaks to fully provide all of the information that each church wants to make available, but this basic outline is a great starting place. Of course, content can be added as you go along, but unfilled pages with a “check back later!” message are unprofessional and, in most cases, they won’t check back. Plan ahead, and you can really come through with an impressive website in one shot.

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