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Four End-User Demands for Your Web Site

What matters most to web users today? That question should be driving everything related to your web offering. It’s interesting that most churches are not sensitized or responsive to what people expect in a web experience today. It’s not because churches are complacent or disengaged. We are finding that most church staffs are simply stretched too thin and focused on the day-to-day mission of the church.

We’ve identified four end-user demands for having a relevant web site. These are non-negotiables because they arise from end-user preferences and expectations.

1. ALLOW CONVERSATION.
Reality:
People are very comfortable and conditioned to sharing their feelings, thoughts, and experiences in the digital world.
+ The biggest benefit of social media is these platforms allow free, open, and honest conversation to occur to vast social networks.
+ The promotional impact that Facebook and Twitter affords the local church is significant and must be leveraged. These tools allow you to connect networks, groups, or communities to key events, blogs, video assets, registration, and so much more.
+ Social media is hard to control, but that’s the risk versus reward you take in that space. Online conversation should happen naturally, without barriers and fears of not being in control of content.
+ If you are not in the social networking world, you are being left out of everyday conversation and everyday life experiences of people you want to connect with. If you are passively in the social media world, end users will recognize that and quickly dismiss you as disengaged.
+ Surprisingly, there are very few churches that are using blogs to open their hearts, thoughts, experiences, and wisdom to the digital world. More churches need to embrace blogs as an opportunity for people to connect in real, emotional ways. Many bloggers are surprised by the growth, loyalty, and impact of their blog readers. You have interesting perspective and life experiences that matter to a lot of people… so blog it.

2. PRIORITIZE SMARTPHONE USERS.
Reality: Apple and Google are leading the charge with handhelds that are every bit as powerful as your Mac or PC.
+ Smartphone users have very rich web experiences, which fuels their significant growth and popularity.
+ Your web site has to respect the specialized platform of smartphones. There are programming or coding considerations that must be implemented so that smartphone users have the experience they expect. Ignoring or being blind to the “rules and expectations” in the smartphone world can quickly render your web site irrelevant and annoying to end users.
+ Expect more churches to offer app solutions for leading smartphone providers. The apps model is a proven and often preferred method for connecting people to your digital assets.

3. WHY READ WHEN YOU CAN WATCH?
Reality: Video is becoming more and more the expected norm for end users.
+ The video revolution is here. Movies, TV programming, news, and personal videos are now an everyday necessity with our notebooks and smartphones.
+ YouTube and Vimeo are constantly refining their platform to allow for easy video integration, subscription, and promotion.
+ RSS feeds of sermons, key events, vlogs (video blogs) from the church are relevant video resources that people can view easier than ever.
+ When we think church videos, we typically think of video sermons. Beyond sermons, churches need to begin capturing personalities and experiences of other experiences and ministries that are critical to the church’s mission. It should not be a foreign concept to have video assets of the children, college, youth and other ministry groups represented on your web site.

4. LESS IS MORE.
Reality: The simple movement is relevant to so many demographics… we expect things to be engineered with smart, simple solutions… your web site included.
+ Your web site, from A-Z, must prioritize the less is more principle. Gone are the days of overloading people with mountains of content. People are drawn to simple, light, and comfortable web experiences. Overwhelm them with complexities and you have another disenchanted web user.
+ Less is more also means an interface design that makes sense and uses the programming, engineering, and design standards that are proven, comfortable, and efficient. People have their favorite web sites… those sites begin to set the expectation for all of their other web experiences.

The vast majority of today’s web sites are grossly deficient in the above-mentioned essentials. Any end-user perceived weaknesses in your web offering creates greater divide for the people you are trying to connect with. Today’s audiences are savvy and quick to judge. Listen to their expectations and provide a parallel experience and you have won their trust and respect. Failure to address their needs leads to a missed and closed connection opportunity.

Allow conversation, prioritize smartphone users, watch instead of read, and less is more. The four critical success factors for your web site… as defined, not by DC, but by millions of web users in the digital world.

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