“America has undoubtedly become a smartphone nation,” says Nielsen in The U.S. Digital Consumer Report. They have estimated that over 65% of Americans own a smartphone, which then surpasses the percentage of Americans with gaming consoles (46%), and even digital cable (54%).
In light of the drastic swing of smartphone owners, churches have begun to design their websites to be mobile optimized, which has created some amazing opportunities for good, and some painful fails as well. Here are some of the 7 deadly sins of mobile church websites.
1. UNSUPPORTED SCREEN RESOLUTIONS
This is undeniably one of the biggest complaints we hear concerning church’s “optimization” for mobile websites. There are few things more frustrating on mobile church websites than having pages cut off, zooming in to read text, or tilt your screen to view the full page.
2. DENYING ACCESS TO SPECIFIC FEATURES
I can remember when the iPhone first came out in 2007; I was dying to get my hands on one. After about a year of waiting, the iPhone was finally available on my carrier, and I was ecstatic. After finally getting everything set up, I can remember being limited to the pages I would visit due to flash player, screen size, or browser support.
Having these same issues can be devastating on a church mobile website. Remember, you want to make most, if not all of your content available across all smartphones and mobile devices. You don’t want to limit someone based on the device they are using.
3. HOMEPAGE AND URL REDIRECTING
When the world of mobile websites came to flourish several years ago, web designers would create two separate sites, one for computers, and one for mobile. However, these would often create problems for one another, either be constantly redirecting someone to the homepage, or even having desktop users go to mobile sites.
Again, the goal here is to allow visitors easily access your site with simplicity and no frustration. How frustrating is it to constantly be redirected to your homepage when you’re trying to get directions to a church event?
4. ASSUME BASED ON DEVICE OR CONTEXT
Working in ministry, you constantly have to be “all things to all people,” which means you have to contextualize quite often. However, in terms of mobile church websites, making content assumptions can be detrimental.
It’s important to NOT assume that mobile users are only going to want on the go content. Mobile users will do anything a desktop user will do, provided it’s presented in a usable way.
Again, you want to avoid limiting some content (such as sermons) to desktop users, when mobile users are in just as much a need to hear the gospel. Assumptions can and will limit your audience and usability.
5. COMING SOON PAGES
I remember when I was a kid, my parents would occasionally take me to theme parks. There was one summer when my radio was blowing up with news of Carowinds’ newest rollercoaster, The Borg. I was stoked! We went to the park, and I immediately rushed to the section with the new ride, only to be greeted with a sign that says, “Coming Soon.”
The disappointment I felt was heartbreaking for my young age. I was told there would be this specific thrill. I could see it. I could hear it. But I could not experience it.
The same goes for church mobile websites that are developing new features. If you are currently working on uploading your sermon archive, then simply DON’T make the sermon tab visible until it is accessible.
6. FIXED POSITIONING AND OVERLAYS
From both a visual and practical standpoint, fixed positioning and overlays can wreak havoc for mobile users. Mobile users are limited on the space their screens can display, and having fixed positions limits the amount of displayable content.
Overlays are tricky to say the least. When done correctly (oftentimes on desktop sites), they can provide visitors to enter in specific information for a small-group finder, or even registration for an event. However, they can also be distracting, and an overall annoyance. Frequently, overlays create positioning issues, which again, limits content, and can sometimes be impossible to escape.
We cannot stress this enough, mobile websites run best when they are honest about your church’s vision and expectations, simple, and clean from all other distractions.
7. DOWNLOAD OUR APP SYNDROME
We are excited to hear about churches becoming increasingly interested in mobile apps! Apps can truly be a wonderful thing, freeing up time and giving users the simplicity that they crave.
We can also see the enthusiasm churches have in wanting others to download their app, we really can! However, there is a major issue with mobile websites bombarding your screen with unavoidable messages that essentially force you to download an app. People don’t like being forced to download things they aren’t interested in.
Visitors who are checking out your site for the first time likely aren’t going to want to see messages about downloading an app for a church they have yet to visit in person. There are better ways to get people interested in downloading your church app.