The first and maybe best thing to say about Tim Shangle’s Kindle ebook 5 Easy Steps to a Church Website is that it’s short. On my iPad, it’s 14 pages, including the introduction. While I do believe creating a church website can be simple, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The author claims in the introduction that he is “going [to -this one of several missing words in the actual text] walk you through building a strategy, creating content, finding a domain name and CMS, designing the look, and maintaining your website.” Well, on a really superficial level, that’s true. Unfortunately, when you’re done reading this book (pamphlet?) you won’t know much more than you did before you started. On the bright side, it’s a quick read, it’s not outdated yet, it won’t discourage you from your website building efforts, and it’s only 99 cents 5 Easy Steps to a Church Website. Here’s my step-by-step review:
Step 1: Starting Out – Why are we creating a website?
This is the high point of the book. Shangle answers his Why have a website? question with the extremely valid point that “The internet is replacing the local phone book as the place to turn to when someone is new in the area and is looking for a new church.” Yes! If your church has any desire to welcome visitors or new members, it needs to have a website. Increasingly, the internet is where people look for a church. In the second half/page of the chapter, Shangle suggests visualizing a fictitious person and coming with the reason that particular person would want to visit your website. Instead of trying to cater to the entire world as your audience at once, think about what particular people will be looking for and design your website with that in mind. Good advice.
Step 2: Content – What are we going to put on it?
Start with a complete inventory of all content that could potentially go on the site. Next, go back to the fictional profiles created in the first step, and consider what they might want to find on the site. Shangle lists three things that all church websites should contain. Rather gratifyingly to me, they’re the exact same three things I wrote about yesterday in 3 Things Every Effective Church Website Needs. Honestly, I wrote that post two days ago and I didn’t open Shangle’s book until today!
The final paragraph in this chapter suggests hiring a professional photographer to capture images of worship. While I don’t know that most churches need to spend the money to hire a professional photographer (there’s a good chance someone in your congregation has the skills and equipment to produce quality photos), I certainly agree that you should absolutely not use stock photos instead of real pictures that reflect your actual church. Stock photos are becoming a pet peeve of mine as I look at lots of church websites.
Step 3: Technicalities – What is a domain name, hosting, and CMS?
Disappointingly, while this chapter has a decent explanation of what a domain name is, that’s about all that’s in the chapter. There’s basically nothing about a CMS, and only a rudimentary explanation of how to choose a web host.
Step 4: Look and Feel – Does it look like us?
Let me give you everything in this chapter in under 20 words. Ready?
Make your website’s look reflect your church. Use a consistent logo. Use a color scheme. Consistently use a font.
That’s it. That’s everything in the entire two page chapter.
Step 5: Maintenance – Who does what?
Maintenance is probably the most important part of a church website. Unfortunately, all this chapter says is that it’s a good idea to establish team roles so no one person is solely responsible for maintaining the website. I agree. And…that’s all of this book.
While I commend the author for writing a book about church websites, this book largely feels like a pamphlet of fluff. If you’re interested in buying it, here’s the link to Amazon. I can’t say I really recommend it. At least it’s cheap.
Check out the book review page for more book reviews of church website books, including some actually worth reading.