More so than any other type of website, the pages built for your Catholic parish or church need to encourage visitors to get involved. From attending a service or event to learning more about the work you do and what you believe, involvement is the cornerstone of church life.
Unfortunately, most Catholic parish websites do very little in terms of enticing visitors to really do something. For most, a website is simply a place to list basic information and maybe a few photos. This, however, is a huge missed opportunity.
With more and more people online and searching, you need your website to not only get found, but you need to make sure that they feel compelled – and excited – enough to do something.
This, of course, wasn’t the case even just a couple of decades ago. And, even when websites were first being built, they really were only expected to be an online version of a business card. But, since technology is always changing, the online game has been elevated – even with what’s expected from your Catholic parish’s website. Your viewers are looking to be engaged. They want something to do as they scroll from page to page, from search to search. If you want your page visitors to stay long enough to learn and join, then you need to get them involved.
And you need to do it fast.
The more interactive you can make your website, the more you’ll be able to grab your visitors’ attention before it’s pulled away to something else – many times something completely different. According to recent data, the average person today only has an eight second attention span, a dramatic drop taking place after the year 2000 when the mobile revolution first began. And, when the device is handheld, like a smartphone, it seems like that attention span is even shorter.
People want answers fast. They want to get engaged immediately. They want to learn something, do something, see something in seconds or else they’ll leave. And while you can dive into whether this is good or bad for us as a society, right now that is the reality. That means that, in order to have an effective presence online, your website must be using the most interactive features possible.
Thankfully, they don’t need to be flashy nor filled with gimmicks to get the job done. Remember, people who visit your website are looking to get involved with what you’re doing – that’s why they’re there in the first place! All your parish or church community needs to do, then, is give them what they want.
Here are five interactive website features you can include in your design in order to increase involvement at your church and in your community:
- Ask Good Questions. By nature, humans want to answer questions. Asking a thought-provoking question is one of the easiest ways to instantly engage your website’s visitors. From the copy you include on your homepage to short surveys you can create and embed for feedback, there’s no shortage of ways you can incorporate questions. Where will you start?
- Have a Live Chat Option. You can’t always predict what your visitors are looking for. You also can’t replace the benefits of one-on-one interaction. Thankfully, it’s fairly straightforward to add a live chat feature to your website design. By doing so, you allow people on your website to immediately know that someone is available to answer questions. You can even customize the greeting they see so that it automatically shows up when they visit your homepage. Many live chat apps can be downloaded straight to your phone or computer, which means you can have someone answering questions in real time the same way they would respond to a text message or an instant message. Live chat is also a great way to direct visitors to where you want them to go on your website, encouraging them to look at a particular page, for example, before they leave your site.
- Feature Reviews and Testimonials. People love hearing stories, which is why reviews and testimonials on your website are so compelling. Not only do they bring your church to life, but they engage immediately, especially if you accompany them with photographs of the person who allowed you to use their words. Better yet? Incorporate video reviews on your homepage, About page, or even create a dedicated “Stories” page for your parish.
- Use Hyperlinks. By nature, hyperlinks are interactive, immediately signaling to your visitor that there is something for them to do (click!) Internal hyperlinks can help your audience find what they’re looking for on your website more easily, which is a great way to keep them on your website for longer than the typical ten to fifteen seconds. As an added bonus, internal hyperlinking also helps to boost your SEO, which means it’s more likely that your parish or church will be found in local searches.
- Make Your Visuals Interactive. Rather than using still photos or graphics, enlist the help of design professionals to create interactive visuals for your website. From pictures that come to life to paragraphs that appear when you scroll, this type of interaction helps to keep your visitor engaged long enough so that they find what they’re looking for.