Today 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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- Put the church address in the footer of the site.
- Put upcoming events on the “calendar” p age.
- Register the site in local directories and search engines
- 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:
- Hire a company that specializes in local search engine optimization for churches to improve your search rankings.
- Create a welcome video for the homepage.
- 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.