Christian businesses, ministries and non-profits that provide people with a favorable website experience win much of today’s online battle: keeping people engaged.
According to Adobe, 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content and layout is unattractive, and 39% will stop engaging if images take too long to load.
Think about how you use websites. What do you like to see? What irritates you? What makes you want to stay a while on a website? What makes you want to leave? Importantly, do you visit websites mostly on your mobile device or via desktop?
Chances are, the type of experience you like to have will be similar to the type of experience your key audiences also like to have (but you can also dig deeper and find this out for sure!).
To keep people (and especially people viewing on mobile devices) engaged and prevent them from bouncing away, heed these 8 things Christian ministries should avoid on websites:
1. Constant pop ups. Although I use a pop up occasionally, I try to be conscientious about not using them generously and irritating visitors. I liken pop ups to this example: Would you invite me in for coffee and conversation and then shout at me every few minutes with an offer for something else to eat? It’s best not to do something similar on your website.
2. Website pagination. Pagination requires readers to navigate to the next screen to continue reading. A lot of media-based websites use pagination to measure how many pages deep visitors read, and also as a technique to serve more ads. I find it tedious, especially if I’m on a mobile device. Website pagination feels like inviting a guest to your home for coffee and conversation, then insisting you move to a new room every other minute to continue the conversation. If you must use it, use it sparingly. Make it simple for people to read your content.
3. Sliders. Sliders (sometimes called “carousels”) are not a great idea for a host of reasons. One, they are confusing to readers who either don’t understand the website’s primary message (too many messages equals no messages at all), or they just ignore the slider all together. Two, they tend to weigh websites and image load times down. Three, they aren’t great for SEO for the previous reasons. I think it’s best to nix the slider.
4. Copying content from other websites. This is just a big no-no all around. I included it though, because I’ve seen people blatantly rip off other websites’ content word for word. Just don’t copy another website’s content. I know you won’t so let’s move on.
The bottomline is to get found and engage online visitors so you can give hope.
5. Poor navigation. It should be really clear from the home page where visitors should go next. Too many choices almost guarantees a visitor will choose none and leave. Websites with clear navigation are rewarded both by visitors who engage more deeply with the site and also by search engines because they can better understand what the site is about.
6. No clear call to action. Similarly, too many “asks” of website visitors likely won’t result in any kind of action. Websites should make exceptionally clear what visitors should do—say, donate to help the mission end sex trafficking or register for the conference or buy the album or order the book. Then put that call to action on every page where it makes sense on the site. Eliminate non-essential choices. If you must have more than one call to action, try not to let them compete against each other. Put them on different and appropriate pages of the website. If they’re on the same page, put them in order of priority. Just make sure there is at least one very clear and most important call to action.
7. No contact information. Websites that don’t clearly display contact information are usually rewarded with visitors who bounce away and a lower search engine ranking. Make sure you clearly add contact information to your website.
8. Using images without credit. Sometimes, image and stock photo sites will ask that a photo credit is included with the image if used on a website. If asked, it’s a good best practice to include a photo credit and link back to the photo source if possible.
The bottomline is that the simpler, more concise and clearer your Christian ministry can make your website, the more likely you can get found and engage online visitors so you can give hope.