Expand Your Reach: Responsive Website Development and Design

Creating a church website is pretty much like creating any other website. You have to provide a good platform that’s usable for the visitor, engaging, and provides valuable content. Many people today want information presented in a format that’s easy to digest and that’s shareable.

Often, that means a modern design that’s responsive. Here’s how to help your church by making your website more user-friendly.

Build Out Your Site With The Mobile User In Mind

More and more people use mobile more than they use their desktop. Research done by Pew International shows that 55 percent of Americans say they’d used a mobile device to access the web. But, 31 percent of these users say that it’s the primary way they access the Internet. And, this trend is continuing to grow.

Roughly 50 percent of teenagers use the Internet mostly on their phone, meaning if you want to capture the youth market, you have to have a website designed for mobile. About 51 percent of black adults, and 42 percent of hispanic adults who use mobile devices say that their smartphone or tablet is the primary way they access the web.

Even low-income adults, those making less than $30,000 a year, are more likely to rely on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, to access the Internet.

That means that a designer for Church Websites needs to design primarily for mobile users while still providing a robust experience for desktop users.

Test It On Real Devices, Not Emulators

A big mistake that most developers make is that they don’t test their finished site on a live device. They use emulators. But, an emulator doesn’t give you the same experience as a live device – not always.

Don’t Use Javascript, Flash, Or Other Complex Language For Rendering The Layout

In the 1990s, it was common for developers to build sites out in flash or javascript, but these languages can seriously slow down the loading of your site. Not only that, they’re expensive to develop.

Stick with classic HTML, CSS, and PHP coding. With HTML5, you shouldn’t need flash anyway.

Use a Framework You Trust, and Lock Down The cPanel

Use a framework you can trust. While many developers are skeptical about frameworks like Thesis or Genesis, the truth is that these frameworks make life easier for the end-user and the webmaster or site owner.

Frameworks separate the design of the website from the database and content management platform.

As an analogy, imagine a car or truck. You can think about a website framework like this: The content management system, like WordPress, is the “engine” of the website, the framework, like Genesis, is the “frame and body,” and then there are “skins” or “themes” which are like the “paint job.”

By separating out these parts, the WordPress (or whatever content management system you want to use) stays updated, the “frame” or “body” of your site stays updated, and all this happens without disturbing the content you put up on that site.

So, if you make modifications to your website, you never have to change the WordPress core or the framework. You simply change the database content or how it looks (the theme or skin).

It makes for a more stable, reliable, and robust website.

Keep Design Simple and Intuitive

Even with a good framework, you need to keep your site simple and intuitive for users. Users should not have to guess at where you want them to go, what the site is about, or what you want them to do.

Design your website so that it’s unequivocal – state what you do, make your navigation menu dead-simple to understand, and provide users with a clear path through your website.

Minify Everything

Code should be minified to save space and improve performance. Thankfully, this is easily accomplished with established plugins for WordPress sites. If you’re not working on the WordPress platform, contact your developer for details on minifying HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

Check Website Performance

Using Google PageSpeed and YSlow can tell you a lot about the design of your site. If you’ve done a good job, you’ll score at or near 100/100 on both the mobile and laptop/desktop tests. Don’t wait until your site is completely finished to test, either.

You want your site to be speedy throughout the dev process because having to redo it at the end because of a mistake made early on will be expensive.

Website performance is important because it affects how long it takes for your website load. And, while you might think patience is a virtue, most users won’t wait more than 3 seconds for your site to load.

Ideally, the site should load in under a second. Most sites are nowhere near this speed, but you can get close if you’re using a managed hosting account and you do a good job with the design and minification.

Angela has worked online since 2000 and has helped thousands of people with their web presence over the years. She has now focused her work on church websites at ChurchDev.com.

Featured image credit: ShutterStock

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