Simplicity is complex. Designing and maintaining a website takes focus and a clear purpose. When designing a website it is easy for it to become complex and cluttered. While a website generally does not start this way, adding features without taking the time to consider the full design will actually corrupt the original design, and lead to 'feature creep'. This is why it is important to have a focus on simplicity in your website.
What does having a simple church website involve? Read the below list of principles to help keep your website simple:
- Have a purpose for your site and follow it. Define what your website should accomplish. Should your website provide information, or provide ways for the church body to interact? Is the site designed for members of the church or is it aimed at attracting visitors? Consider these questions to help define your purpose, then implement your purpose. This includes not adding features just because you can, but instead use features to accomplish your purpose. This commonly happens with media such as photos, video, flash content, and music.
- Content is king. Design frames the content, and is also what draws visitors. When you see a framed photo you study the photo but only briefly notice the frame. If the site is beautiful but there is no meat, it won't draw them back. This is instead the content's purpose.
- An organized site leads to simpler navigation. Nothing is more frustrating than knowing that a website has the information you want but you can not find it. Also there are many easy implementations for menus. Fortunately most church websites have the somewhat consistent sections for navigation. Site maps could help with navigation, however they are rarely used so don't rely on them to help your visitors navigate. However they help with SEO.
- Simplicity leads to compatibility. The more complex you make your site, the harder it is to maintain a consistent look on all operating systems and browsers. This is especially true with the rapid increase of browsing on smart phones.
- Use proven systems and standards. Designing a whole website from scratch can be impressive but there are many products that will create amazing websites with less experience and work.
- Red Acorns offers this wisdom from this article on Simple Website Design. "Eliminate unnecessary elements. Look at your website as if you were using it for the 1000th time. Would that animated graphic still look cute? Would that Flash intro still impress? Make sure each graphical element adds to the site and does not detract." . If your website focuses on first time visitors, they are likely to be the only visitors. If you do not have deeper content, there will be no incentive for visitors to return.
- Maintain a consistent feel. Having consistent colors and layouts, or similar designs help the visitor find the information they are looking for faster. Otherwise they will have to spend crucial time adjusting and searching each page for information. This is where a plan for the site is crucial. Not having a plan will most likely lead to disparate designs on different pages.
John Calvin desired for worship to not be complex, flashy, or distracting. We need to have this same mentality for websites that abandon complexity for simplicity. Give visitors a reason to stay, not to leave!