It’s hard to go anywhere (including church) where people are not pulling out their phones for more than calls. We’re clearly a mobile culture with habits now firmly entrenched in anytime, anywhere access. Churches must, at a minimum, make a mobile version of their websites for these small screens.
For those pastors wanting some stats to back this up, it’s helpful to note the following:
54% (and climbing) of mobile users are now smartphone users (125.9 million people in the U.S. own smartphones as of December 2012).
94% of smartphone users have searched for local info—including your church.
66% of smartphone users visited an organization in person after viewing a website.
90% of smartphone users acted within 24 hours of viewing the website.
57% of mobile users won’t recommend an organization based on a poorly designed mobile site.
(Sources: comScore; Google 2012 mobile report)
But where to start? Pastors don’t need to bother trying to keep up with the technology, but they do need to empower their staff/volunteer web team to ensure their church websites are mobile friendly.
Six quick checks any pastor can do:
1) Does the website load fast? Mobile phones are not always on Wi-Fi, so under three seconds load time is the goal.
2) Is the text big enough to read without zooming? The only acceptable answer is “yes.”
3) Is navigation simple and obvious? Less is more with only a few, obvious choices for most mobile websites.
4) Are links thumb-friendly? Text links must be easy to click.
5) Do images fit on the screen? Chances are, text-only or very limited picture usage is best (and loads faster, too).
6) Is there a one-click method for a phone number, email and map (directions)? The only acceptable answer is “yes.”
Answering these questions is a quick and easy way to determine if your church website needs a mobile-friendly overhaul. In fact, quite often you’ll find that the exercise of thinking through your mobile website is a great launching point for rethinking your existing desktop website too. Less really is more!
Optimizing for Mobile
If your church needs a new mobile website, below are a few helpful guidelines to ensure it’s optimized for mobile users.
1) Ensure Fast Loading
• Focus on the information that someone on a mobile device will likely need to know.
• Use Google analytics to see what mobile users are doing on your regular website now as consideration for what should go on your mobile site.
• Consider using responsive design (code-speak here) for flexible layout depending on the size/resolution of the device.
• Limit images and pictures. Text-only is perfectly OK.
2) Simplify Navigation
• Orient the site vertically for most uses (except for possibly integrated maps/directions).
• Use a simplified hierarchy in menus. No roll-over menus!
• Use obvious Back and Home buttons.
• If possible, limit navigation to top-level information only; this is not replacing the entire church website.
• Add small icons with clickable links for your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter etc.)
• If you have a search box, limit any negative results to simple text with phone number and email address links.
3) Be Thumb-Friendly
• Re-write content to use short sentences and paragraphs. Limit scrolling of text.
• Keep links spread apart to reduce accidental clicks.
• If you use fields to capture information, limit to only essential information to limit typing (and errors).
The future is not mobile for our culture; mobile is now. Churches can easily respond to this reality with simplified, optimized mobile websites to meet people where the are at—anytime, anywhere.
Note: Special thanks for my friends at ROAR.pro for their quick-and-easy mobile “before and after” screenshot tool for making a church mobile website. They’re good people to check out.