There is a sweet spot where the ministry goals of your church, meet your website visitors needs, and square with technical constraints, opening the space for ministry to take place. User Experience is a development process that helps to uncover that sweet spot, giving you a better chance of realizing your goals.
Finding The Sweet Spot
To open the space for ministry to take place on the web, the way you pursue your ministry goals must meet your visitors needs. When you know your web audience, then you’ll know how to reach out to them.
Providing content for particular groups is something you’re already good at doing. You already create content for children, teens, and adult Sunday School classes. Relax, you’re good at creating programs for folks!
To apply your skills to a web ministry, you’ll just need to learn who visits your site, how to increase visits to your website, and how to choose web publishing tools that align with your skill level.
What Your Visitor Needs
First and foremost, your website visitor needs a comfortable place to explore. He needs to figure out the mechanics of your site quickly, so navigation and interface elements need to be simple and predictable. He also needs to find something of value. Predictability and ease of use will keep him from leaving your site quickly, while interesting content will make him stick around.
A well designed website offers:
- An easy to use interface
- Easy to find content
- Easy to understand, meaningful content
Let’s get started!
In the Early part of the development process, it is important to assess your current situation. If you have a website, you have stakeholders. Your stakeholders are those individuals who create content for your site and those responsible for the upkeep of your site. All of the folks involved in your web ministry have particular gifts and well-informed opinions about what would improve your site. They also know what’s most challenging for them. Some may feel apprehensive about using new website building tools. All of these folks will appreciate the opportunity offer their expertise, advice, and opinions. Gathering this information will help you gain a clear understanding of your team’s gifts and limitations, and aid you as you plan your new site.
Start by putting together a list of questions that you can use to interview your stakeholders. Include the questions below, along with any others you want to add.
- What do you like about our current website?
- What feedback about the website have you received from others?
- What are some problem areas we could improve?
- What do you think would improve the site?
- What concerns you the most about this project?
- How would you like to use your gifts to help with this ongoing ministry?
- Do you think your level of technical skill has been sufficient to the tasks you’ve been asked to perform? Would you like more training?
- How much time can you devote to this effort each week?
After you prepare your questions, set about interviewing all of your stakeholders individually. Team members should interview each other. Folks will be more forthcoming in a relaxed atmosphere, so make small talk first, and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea together.
Processing The Interviews
Gather your team to discuss the questionnaires. Start by making two lists with the following labels:
- Constraints. Your constraints are your limitations. You should list the average time volunteers can contribute to the project, the skill level of team members, as well as the following:
a. Budget limitations
b. Equipment limitations (e.g. old audio/video equipment)
- Assets. Your assets include the gifts your team members bring to the project, as well as anything else you can think of that you possess that will benefits the project.
- Volunteers offer an average of two hours per week to work on this ministry.
- Volunteers have moderate technical skills, but lack extra time for training.
- Our entire annual website budget is $350.00
- We need someone to operate our new audio equipment, so that we can posts audio from sermons on our website.
- We have a team member that is an artist.
- We have a team member who has some web design experience.
- One of our team members is an English teacher and creative writer.
- We have a tech-savvy office staff who will to help update the website and post events.
- We have new audio equipment
Next, make a note of positive and negative feedback you received from interviewees or others about your current website. Note any problems with your site as negative feedback. Create the following lists:
- Positive Feedback. Take stock of what your team and others like about your site, so that you can use those features in your new website.
- Negative Feedback. It’s valuable to take into account problems with your old website. Complaints offer clues about how to improve your site and pitfals to avoid as your design your new site.
- Lots of people love our Pastor’s Blog
- We have high community attendance for our monthly Praise Concert. People have indicated that they visit our site to find out about the concerts and events we offer.
- The newsletter is hard to find
- The website is difficult to navigate on mobile phones
Whether you’re planning an elaborate or modest internet ministry, it is important to set goals early. Your goals should drive the kind of content that you create. By creating content related to your goals, you focus your team’s energy. You also begin to create the predictability and continuity that is vital to your visitor.
So, start with just a few specific goals at a time, that way it will be easier to measure what works and what doesn’t.
Our Web Ministry Goals
- Attract young families.
- Reach out and minister to “unchurched” individuals.
- Reach out to our community and surrounding neighborhood.
There are likely many different ways a church could go after each of the goals above. The list is purposefully short on details. Later on in the process; you’ll brainstorm with your team about ways to pursue your goals, and then, circle back to make your goals more specific. For now, keep your goals vague, so that you remain open to new ideas later on.
A Good Place To Begin
If you are not sure what goals to set for your website, you may want to start with your mission statement or consider how ministries that you already have in place could be extended to the web.
Learn About Your Visitors
Collect Google Analytics data. By adding a few lines of code that Google provides you can track user demographics, and roughly gauge what pages on your site are most engaging.
What if I haven’t been collecting analytics data?
If you haven’t been collecting analytics data, don’t worry, you can get started anytime and still work the steps outlined here. Newly designed websites are rarely perfect from the get-go, and you can use this design process over and over to keep improving your site.
To get started with Google Analytics visit https://www.google.com/analytics/ and set up an account.
Once you add your website to your Google Analytics account, you will be able to add the tracking code Google provides to your site. Most website builders like Weebly, Squarespace, or Wordpress have a particular space to add your tracking code within the admin interface they provide.
The Association Of Religious Data Archives has a Community Profile Builder tool that allows you to review demographic data for the neighborhood surrounding your church and surrounding community. Knowing the demographics of your community can help you to target particular groups for ministry. http://www.thearda.com/
Survey Site Visitors
Another way to get to know your website visitor is by adding a short survey to your website.
Collect the stories of new members and visitors. Greet your church visitors like you always do. Strike up a conversation. Afterward, write down what you learned. Collecting the stories of folks who visit and later join your church is important because many of them likely began with your website.
What is a Persona?
A Persona is a characterized representation of a particular kind of website visitor.
Why is it important to create Personas?
Personas provide a way to keep your audience in mind as you work. Your audience is the folks you have identified through research who currently visit your site, as well as any group you want to target. Personas offer a language to describe specific traits, where terms like “visitor” and “user” are too vague and impersonal.
How are Personas used?
For your audience to have a great user experience, you’ll always need to keep their needs in mind. One way to do that is by making the Personas that you create members of your design team.
A common practice is to add a stock photo of a person to represent each Persona, then print them, and hang them up so that everyone on your team can see the personified users whenever you meet.
How to create Personas
- Ask each of your team members to create three Personas (based on any data you have collected) by filling out the worksheet below. (insert persona worksheet image)
- One by one, ask your team members to introduce their personified users. Have each person explain the motivations, goals and (unmet) needs of their Personas.
- Refine the personas
a. Review the Personas. Look for similarities.
b. Have team members rate the importance of each Persona’s traits by holding up a numbered card. The cards should be numbered 1 to 5, where the number 5 describes the most important characteristic, and the number one is the least essential.
c. Combine characters with similar traits into a single Persona.
d. Keep 3 to 5 of the personas with the most important characteristics. Discard Personas with the least important characteristics.
e. Make sure to create a Persona or two for any new audience that you want to target. Without available data, you will have to start making some educated guesses about these folks. Later on, you can add details once you know more about them.
f. Add a photo to each Persona. Adding a face to each Persona will help you keep them in mind as you work. You can use stock photos or clip pictures from a magazine. The social media website Flickr is a good source as well. Just look for photos with a Creative Commons open license and download them.
Content Strategy includes research, planning, and forming a strategy for creating and managing content. It is by far the most important aspect of web design. The structure of your site is just that; it is structure. Like a picture frame, its only purpose is to support your content and make it accessible to others. A picture frame isn’t much without your favorite photograph, and a website won’t be meaningful without excellent content, that people will consume.