Wednesday Website Weview – The Grove Church, Hattiesburg, MS

The Grove ChurchToday we kick of our weekly Wednesday Website Weview!  Every Wednesday we will provide a free professional review of a website and encourage other readers to add their own assessment (that’s where the WE in weview comes in.)

This week we’re reviewing The Grove Church in Hattiesburg, MS.

Background

Justin Grice requested the review and wrote,

We are a church plant and need to get our name out there. One of the main ways we are doing that is by spreading our website around. Since this is so key for us, we need a quality, functional website.

A little more about the website:

  • Used wordpress with a graphic artist for parts of the site.
  • Target audience: Prospective church guests/members
  • Purpose of the website: get people to take the jump and visit
  • 2010 budget: $50 a month (ish)
  • 2010 goals for the site: Moving up in google and more social network interactivity)

Appearance and Layout

My first impression of the site was positive.  There’s a nice logo with friendly looking faces.  Below that there’s a happy couple on an artistic-looking graphic inviting the visitor to join them for a Sunday service.  If the visitor is Caucasian they will probably get a warm feeling from these graphics.  People of any other ethnicity will probably wonder if there’s anyone like them at this church and if they’d be welcome.  I suggest adding some diversity to the homepage.

As I clicked around the site I noticed the logo not present on any other pages, only the name of the church and slogan in black and white.  I suggest replacing the black and white header with the logo that’s on the homepage and add the city, state and slogan to it.

The gray gradient behind the site is a bit boring.  It’s not bad, but could be more colorful and interesting.

Navigation and Usability

The drop-down menus are clearly labeled and consistent from page to page.  They’re very intuitive and I was able to quickly find everything I was looking for.

Purpose and Goals

Justin stated the purpose of the site is to “get people to take the jump and visit.”  That purpose is clear from the moment I first saw the homepage.  The prominent “RU NEW HERE” graphic in the right sidebar is obvious to anyone visiting the site for the first time.  The “Join us this Sunday” graphic makes it clear that’s the next step they what a website visitor to take.  The first text on the page is a message from the pastor to visitors.

The site is also has the church’s address displayed on the homepage and “Contact Us” page, and the Contact Us page is just click away in the main navigation menu.  So, anyone wanting to come to a service or ask someone at the church questions should have no problem doing that.

Content

The content on the homepage is very good – just a short welcome message from the pastor.  There’s nothing worse than a long or busy homepage, and thankfully The Grove Church does not have one of those.

I didn’t read through every page on the site, but those I did were all concise and easy to read due to good use of headings, bold, and bullets.  The site also makes fairly good use of images – both stock images and images of real people in the church.  I did notice repeated use of the “Welcome to the grove” image.  Perhaps it was used a placeholder?  I would suggest replacing that on all but one page.

One of the things I always look for when reviewing a website is whether it appears to be up to date.  With The Grove Church’s site I couldn’t tell because there doesn’t appear to be any time-sensitive information on the site.  There are no events on the “calendar” page, no indication as to what the topic of the Sunday service might be.

Finding the Website

I Googled “Church in Hattiesburg, MS.”  The Grove Church showed up on the second page of the general results (#16) but did not show up anywhere in the top 30 in the local/Google Maps results.  There’s definitely room for improvement there.

Some suggestions I have are:

  • Put the church address and phone number in the footer of the site, so it’s displayed on every page.
  • Register the site with local directories/yellow pages
  • Look for ways to get other organizations within Hattiesburg to put links on their site to The Grove Church’s site.

The “About Hattisburg” page on the site is a great idea!

Interactivity and Social Media

I couldn’t find any way for church members or visitors to interact on the site itself.  No forums or way to post comments on anything.  That’s typical of most church sites, but something to consider if the church would like people to return to the site regularly.

There are links in the sidebar to the church’s flickr page and blogs of 4 of the staff.  These are great tools for engaging people, however, there doesn’t appear to be any commitment to using them.  I would suggest that each staff person either commit to posting once a week to their blog or remove the link from the church site.

Is Facebook or Twitter widely used by people at The Grove Church?  If so, consider creating a Facebook page and/or Twitter profile for the church.  But either commit to updating them regularly or don’t do them at all.

Summary

Overall, I think the site is effectively a decent electronic brochure for people looking for a church and a resource for pointing people in the right direction who are looking for specific ministries.

My top suggestions are:

  1. Replace the black and white header with the logo that’s on the homepage and add the city, state, slogan and some ethnic diversity to it.
  2. Put the church address in the footer of the site.
  3. Put upcoming events on the “calendar” p age.
  4. Register the site in local directories and search engines
  5. Ask the staff to decide whether they are committed to blogging or whether the link to their blog should be removed.

If you really want take things up to the next level:

  1. Hire a company that specializes in local search engine optimization for churches to improve your search rankings.
  2. Create a welcome video for the homepage.
  3. Add some interactivity like a sermon blog or a Facebook page

What do you think of The Grove Church website?  Post your opinions and suggestions in a comment.

Find out how you can get a free professional review of your website.

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

16 Responses to “Wednesday Website Weview – The Grove Church, Hattiesburg, MS”

  1. Thanks so much for this review. It helped me know how to continue what we are doing right and what to improve. I now have a clearer view of what to work on over the next couple months.

  2. This is a great example of how churches can use free "web 2.0" tools to get their ministry online in a quick, quality fashion. I don't know why more churches and ministries don't do this! I did a writeup a while ago on this very topic – you can find it at http://genesys11.com/lessonsfrombabel/2007/05/14/

    I agree with all the recommendations given here. To go deeper, I might ask a couple things:

    1) who is your target audience? In other words, who are you trying to reach? I assume those in your local area (hence the great advice about local search from Paul), but is there a particular age range or cultural group you are focusing on? I would suggest doing some research on that target group to determine which web-based tools would be the best for them.
    2) I would also ask about measurement: have you set some goals that are measurable and do you have a way to measure them? Have you put a process in place to review your site to see if you are meeting your goals?

    Great job with the site and may God bless your ministry.

    Dave

    • Thanks Dave, we do have a target: people moving to Hattiesburg/Lamar County (this is happening relatively quickly), unchurched/dechurched people with a focus of college age to young career age. We have seen some profiles on these people groups, but I haven't done much more than that.

      I have set some measurable goals. I want to see us move up in google. I have used the search term "churches in Hattiesburg, MS" as my benchmark. We were completely off the radar for months and have seemed to settle around page three at this point. I am wanting to develop a nice part of the site with actual content about the city so hopefully new residents or people looking into the area will see our church name. Another goal is social interactivity. We recently set up a facebook fan page and blogs. While much hasn't been done to it yet, my senior pastor has said he would like to do a frequent devotional. I would measure this by commenting.

      Thanks all. Any other suggestions you could offer would be great.

    • Good suggestions, Dave. Yeah, measurement…

      Justin, if you haven't integrated Google Analytics into your site, I would strongly recommend it. It's very easy to do and will give you a lot of insight into what keywords are drawing people to your site from search engines, what people are doing on your site while they're there, and much more.

      • Google Analytics is great. I used that for a previous church (calvaryoakgrove.com). Since we our hosted through wordpress (we are not self hosted with the wordpress software), we have to use wordpress's stat system which takes data from google analytics. You can only have one google analytics code on a webpage, so you must use the date in the way wordpress presents it (which is still very useful. Their stat system tells you "how many people are visiting your blog, where they’re coming from, which posts are most popular, and which search engine terms are sending people to your blog." This has helped me a lot,

  3. Ok, I got our facebook page tweeked and linked from our homepage in the sidebar.

  4. this was really informative. i went to the Grove Church webpage to compare the review with what i saw. the review was spot on in almost every respect, and i am trying to find ways to evaluate what was said here for my own website as well (the difference being that my webpage isn't a suppliment to my brick and mortar church, but the church itself). i have the feeling i'll be reading this review many times and using to evaluate my own site. thanks.

  5. Excellent! That's our hope – that the reviews are useful to many people beyond the organization whose site is reviewed.

    • I've really redone the website. We've begun to do more blogging, integrated the blogs into the main site, added a facebook app and are really using our facebook fan page, and we are beginning to take testimonies from people to put on the site. Thatnks so much for your advice. We are always improving and still looking for ways to improve.

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