The 'Notting Hill' movie guide to web design
One of the most memorable scenes in the film Notting Hill, starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, is when Hugh’s housemate opens their front door to collect some milk, only to find a hoard of the world’s media camped outside.
Clad only in his underpants, Spike makes the most of the opportunity and strikes sultry poses against the blue doorway as the paparazzi flash away.
The iconic entrance used in the scene became so famous that the real-life owners of the house sold off the actual door in aid of charity – no doubt also to try and reduce the number of tourists using the front of their fashionable residence as a photo location. The famous doorway is now painted white with a new – probably intentionally inconspicuous – black door in place.
Your front door can say so much about you, but the same is true of your website – your online front door.
To buy or not to buy, that is the question...
Think what you do if you’re considering buying from a business or using a service for the first time – you go and check out their website.
What you see there gives you a sense of whether the organisation is credible, reliable, trustworthy, competent – or the opposite. This can give you confidence to decide to buy or engage with the organisation – or undermines that.
But that’s what people are doing all the time when they consider coming to your church.
Here’s the thing. Right now, people are deciding whether to come along to your church based upon seeing your front door – your website.
Scary? What’s their decision likely to be?
The world has changed
At the Church of Christ the King in Brighton, UK, where I’m involved as an area congregation pastor and on the Communications & Technology Team, we’re finding this to be more and more important. I talk to a lot of churches as part of my work with Endis and others are telling me the same thing.
There was a time when it would be extremely rare for someone to come in off the street on a Sunday without knowing anyone in the church. Most visitors would come because a friend brought them.
We’re finding that this has changed. While many people come along because they’ve met other church members, an increasing number arrive through our doors for the first time simply because of our church website – they don’t know anyone.
They’ve been able to pick up enough about our values and ethos from the website to feel confident about making the bold step of turning up on a Sunday.
Consequently, I’m constantly surprised by the number of churches who make good web design a low priority. Paradoxically, they communicate that good communication isn’t important to them.
What they need to know
If your website looks amateurish, appears as if the spotty nephew of the church treasurer designed it (“he’s only 14 and he’s so good with computers”) and doesn’t present key visitor information in non-churchy language, then potential visitors will be walking away.
As well as seeing a professional-looking design which gives confidence, what do people want to know?
This last point is very important for families. Is there are Sunday School? For what ages? Do children stay in for the whole service? If not, do they go out to Sunday School and when? What age groups are there?
- Where do you meet? (map please)
- When do you meet – and how long does it last?
- What will happen while I’m there?
- Do I need to dress up?
- Are you a load of wackos?
- What happens to my kids?
If I have children, this is crucial. If I know the above, I can tell my kids in advance what’s going to happen. This will put them at ease in a new and unfamiliar situation. If they’re happy, I will be – and I can concentrate on what I’m experiencing.
Presenting this kind of information on your home page (or at least linking very obviously to it) is really important in making your website, and your church, visitor-friendly.
So, change your front door for a nice shiny one which will give people confidence to come – or at the very least, give it a new lick of paint and make sure key information is easy for potential visitors to find.
To give you a bit of design inspiration, here are some examples of what other churches & charities have done.
Alistair Birch, 12/07/2011