The church website landscape is changing again. The fastest growing trend in websites these days is all about the method of access. With the use of smart phones skyrocketing, it is fast becoming a frequently used method to view your church website. According to Pew Research, over 59% of American adults access the internet wirelessly. The younger demographics are even higher, with ages 30-49 at 69% and ages 18-29 at 84%. Unfortunately, most websites do not look very good on a mobile phone and the information loads very slowly. Websites that rely heavily on Flash or scripts have a particularly hard time with many features critical to site navigation being disabled on these devices. It is great to leverage Facebook and Twitter for mobile users, but your website still needs to be the "go to" place.
So, what is a church leader to do?
First of all, this is not a problem. It really represents an opportunity. You have the chance to reach out to people in a more personal way than ever before. Websites have never been this accessible or personal.
There are two ways to leverage this opportunity. One is to create a mobile website and the second is to build a church app for i-phones or Android. Each has its place and they are companions to one another. In the end, these are just more tools in your communication strategy. (Assuming of course, that you have a communication strategy!)
The mobile website should be the easiest part, primarily because the content required is pretty straight forward. The best use for the mobile site is to give a new visitor the basic information about the church. Who are you? Where are You? When do you meet? What do you believe? Why should I visit? What should I expect when I visit? Who can I talk to? I think that if you answer each of these questions, then you will have an effective mobile site. My website platform was recently upgraded to include mobile website options. The Tech Tools SiteBuilder is a website platform that provides a mobile website as part of the basic package. It is very easy to get going and people that visit your site are automatically routed to the mobile site if they access it on a smart phone. It could also be used exclusively as a mobile site in conjunction to your existing site. There are also other ways of building a mobile website. A quick internet search yields many ways of building a site.
Building an app is another tool which would provide you an extremely high level of interaction with people. The function of the app will be determined by what you want to accomplish. It can be event driven or perhaps geared toward spiritual formation. The big question here is one of function. What do you want the app to do? There are a few tools that can be used to write an app, but most of these are going to require a bit of technical savvy. I think that most churches who desire to have an app will want to work with someone to help with the design and creation.
These are not projects for vanity. The issue is not to look more cool than the other churches, it is to reach people for Christ by putting yourself where they are currently looking. Right now, they are still waiting for your website to load on their phone!