Does your website scream “Members Only!”

Current Members Only SignMember’s Only.  For those who remember the 80’s this may conjure up memories of a jacket fad that probably lasted a bit longer than parachute pants.  Other times, “Members Only” may mean an exclusive club or privileges.  Often, something that is members only is usually a good thing.  However, for most websites, “Members Only” is the exact opposite.  Why?

If you are a church, school, ministry or business, a website has a dual purpose.  One reason is to communicate more effectively with those who are a part of your organization.  The second reason it to communicate with those outside your organization.

So how do you create a website that is welcoming to those outside your organization and doesn’t scream, “Members Only!”

1. Don’t use a design or images that only those who are part of your organization can identify with.  Symbols, pictures, or an overall design should be easily relatable to those who have been with your organization for many years and those who are visiting your website for the first time.

2. Avoid using text that outsiders will not understand.  Churches are historically bad at this one.  Many church websites use a language that only a church or staff would understand.  Remember, if part of the purpose of your website is to attract new people to your organization, don’t make visitors feel unwelcome by using words those visitors would not know or understand.  This applies to both text on the main pages as well as the words used in your navigation menu.

3. Be intentional about welcoming newcomers.  This may seem obvious but often times those with best intentions don’t take the needed steps to simply say, “Welcome Visitors!”  An introductory paragraph specifically aimed at those who are new is a great way to engage first time visitors.  Using buttons or navigation menu items that read, “New to XYZ, click here” or having a welcome video on your homepage are other ways to make newbie’s feel welcome.

What are other ways that you have made first time visitors feel welcome on your website.  Share your experiences below.

Mark Steinbrueck is President and Co-founder of OurChurch.Com. He is a member of Generations Christian Church, a husband and father of 3. He is a huge Cardinals baseball fan and bleeds Garnet and Gold. Find on Google+.

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