Central Vineyard: A Website Built for the Future
When Central Vineyard approached us to help them update their website, we were taking on a website that we had already heavily influenced, in terms of the look-and-feel. The big update was to the technology. But this also presented a chance to consider the strategy behind the site more clearly.
Central Vineyard is a growing church, and at the time of writing, is midway through launching two new multi-site locations in nearby Kettering and Wellingborough. So the challenge was to build a solution that doesn’t just solve today’s problems, but is also ready for the future and any developments that come along.
BUILD IT RIGHT.
There is nothing more frustrating than finishing a digital project, particularly on such a large-scale as this one, only to find that in a matter of months, or a couple of years, it is no longer capable of doing the job. So we set out to build a high-performance website that works now, but has good foundations for any and all future developments.
We introduced micro-sites built on subdomains. This did two things: firstly, it enabled us to deliver specific SEO (search engine optimisation) strategies for the new locations. Secondly, it enables the addition of new pages, content etc as required to each site. Although the sites are meant to be a representation of the ‘broader’ Central Vineyard, there will always be differences – the compassion needs are different, maybe the kids work is different – Northampton has a university, Kettering and Wellingborough do not, so perhaps there won’t be so much of a student work at these locations.
But we also ensured that the core-pages for the church were kept ‘central’. You don’t need a page explaining the core values of your children’s ministry if the text is the same for the three locations. This is duplicate content and adds no real value, whilst adding to the maintenance effort required to ensure the site is really up-to-date.
FOCUS IT RIGHT.
In the marketing world, websites cannot be merely seen as a brochure or shop window. Those days are long gone. And if your marketing guy is telling you this, have a chat with us!
At the same time, websites aren’t particularly useful for communicating with church members. We looked over the analytics reports with Central Vineyard, and one thing was clear from this and conversations within the church: once people come to the church, they rarely visit the website again. They rely on email, text and Sunday-morning contact for information. This is excellent – but it demonstrates the need for a communication strategy.
The analysis had implications for the website that are highly positive. The overwhelming majority of users on the website are people looking for a new church, or perhaps are interested in faith. So we essentially focused everything on newcomers. We identified their key needs and the questions they ask, and allowed this to drive the design and influence the message spread across the website.
DON’T JUST BUILD A WEBSITE
When it comes to a significant update to a website, there are two big considerations for you:
- Your website will not change your church. Some companies use this idea to get you to invest in a new website – “oh, if you get a new website your attendance will go up”. And whilst it may bring people who are disgruntled with their own current church, the reality is that people who don’t know Jesus are not going to flock into your church because of a new website (except by the grace of God…).
- Don’t just ‘build something’, build the right thing. Consider your overall marketing strategy. How can you integrate this site with social media and other communications tools? Who is your (actual) target market? What are the technologies most likely to change in the next 3-4 years? How can you update the site? Do you have plans for multi-site? The list goes on. And, we believe firmly in the idea of ‘fresh eyes’ – have people outside your church come and make an honest and fruitful observation of your church?
If we can help you with your new church website or overall communications strategy, we would love to hear from you.