Get your church on the phone
Surveys are showing that greater than half of internet access these days is from mobile devices like iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets. It's more important than ever that your web site be mobile-friendly. Here are some relevant numbers:
- 1 in 5 people in the world own a smartphone (per BI Intelligence)
- 1 in 17 people in the world own a tablet (per BI Intelligence)
- Total use of mobile devices to access social media has grown 55% in the past year ... that translates to 70% of all social media use is on a mobile device (per comScore)
So how does your church's web site look on these devices? If it's been a long time since you launched your current site, take a look at it on a phone or tablet. You may be surprised with what you see.
The more people surf the web on their phones and tablets, the more important it is for your web site to provide a good experience on those devices.
When a web page can adapt to the device, it's called "responsive". It can tell whether it's on a PC or Mac, an iPhone or an Android, and an iPad versus a Galaxy Tab. It adjusts its layout to accommodate. See what a small church outside of Fort Worth is doing. Visit it here on your computer and your mobile device. If you don't have a smartphone or tablet, just narrow your browser and watch the layout change as the width shrinks.
At the right is a screen shot of a church web site that is not responsive. It looks just like it does on a PC or Mac. To read anything, you have to zoom in on it. And if it happens to use Flash for its slideshows, they won't work on an iPhone or iPad because Apple doesn't support Flash; your visitor would need to buy a third-party browser. While the page still looks respectable, it's hardly user-friendly, particularly on a phone.
Marketers know that they must be mobile-friendly and the best have already adapted. You don't think that just because we're talking about a house of worship, that you don't?
The great thing is that it's not that difficult for your church to have a responsive site, especially if it is using a content management system (CMS) such as Joomla or Wordpress. You can purchase affordable templates that look great, offer a lot of options and provide responsiveness right out of the box.
Ah, but you say you already have a responsive template. There's one more thing you need to do, if you haven't already: look at your site on at least one mobile device. Why? Because the items that appear around your main article (modules or widgets, depending on which CMS you use) may look great on the PC/Mac version of your web page, but may not be in an attractive order on a phone or tablet. The Fort Worth area church I link to above does a good job of having its modules appear in an effective order on phones.
Check the documentation for your CMS and template to see how to control whether and in what order your modules/widgets appear on your mobile devices.
What about smartphone/tablet apps for churches? TechCrunch reports that in 2014, mobile device users are spending more of their time in apps than in surfing the web. Does this mean you should shift your attention away from a responsive web site and toward a church app? I would argue that the answer is, not for the foreseeable future, particularly if you are striving for a visitor-oriented digital presence, or one that balances the needs of visitors and members.
Visitors who find you via a search engine are going to land on your web site first. What are the odds that someone who doesn't attend your congregation knows about the app without visiting your site first? In addition, the casual visitor is not likely to download an app just to learn the most basic information, such as when and where you meet, and directions to your church building.
That's not to say that I'm negative on church apps. I'm not. My point is to prioritize. Make sure your web site works well on mobile devices before adding an app.
I do think that if your budget permits it, that a church app can be a major positive for your congregation's members and regular attenders, as it can make online giving and prayer lists more accessible, provide a special communications channel, and make it easier to hear (or watch) services online.
In my research for this post, I found a mega-church with an attendance averaging over 12,000 per week has an excellent web site but to my surprise, is not responsive to mobile devices at all. So if you haven't made your web site mobile friendly, you are far from alone, and it's never too late to start.
- Published: 26 January 2015 26 January 2015