We’ve all been there… January 1 hits, and we set a New Year’s Resolution. By the end of the first week, we’re already off the wagon. Goals are nothing but dreams until you have a strategy or system to make your goals a reality (Check out Atomic Habits by James Clear). Your church website is one of these systems–a system to achieve specific goals like these:
“We want to have more first-time visitors in our church on Sunday.”
“We need to be able to communicate details about our upcoming events.”
“We need a single place for our people to be able to respond to anything we have going on at the current moment.”
“We want to publish our sermons so they can have influence outside of Sunday morning.”
These are excellent goals to have, and websites like the ones our clients build on Digital Church Platform do a great job of making these goals a reality. But what happens when something unexpected gets in the way of your goals? Maybe your needs have changed since you set up your website. Maybe your site hasn’t been updated in a while and something is broken that you don’t know about. It’s going to happen, so you also need some systems in place to mitigate those kinds of risks.
Performing an annual review on your website is a great system to implement to make sure you don’t have issues that go unchecked for long periods of time. It also helps you to come up with some new goals for your website or your organization over the coming year. So we’ve put together a simple list of items that we think you should make part of your annual review. (By the way, feel free to run this kind of thing more than once a year… maybe it’s a good idea to do some of this monthly or quarterly.)
Anyhow, here’s the list we have for you:
- Device Responsiveness
- Security Certification
- Server Performance
- User Interactions & Forms
- Billing Information
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Test User Flows
- Contact Info
- Copyright Year
Take some time to sit down with a cup of coffee and some paper to take notes on. View your website on every different kind of device you have access to. If you can, view it on a large screen desktop computer, a laptop or notebook computer, a tablet, and a smartphone. Take time to click through each page on each device, and make a list of things you want to come back to improve.
You know that little padlock that shows up on secure websites? Long-gone are the days that websites could get away with not having SSL/TLS Certification set up on their server. Google and others are beginning to punish websites who don’t offer a secure connection, so make sure you have an SSL Certificate installed. On our Digital Church Platform, we make sure all our clients have SSL Certificates installed at all times, and we even make it so all traffic is routed to the secure connection by default, even if they don’t enter the secure https:// protocol in their browser. If you’d like to run an SSL Certificate test on your site from a third-party, there are some third-party tools you can use to scan your website to make sure everything is set up properly.
When visiting your website during your device testing, did you notice that your site was slow to load? If no, you may want to run some speed tests. Our favorite is pingdom, but there are several popular ones you should check. If you get a horrible grade on your speed test, don’t worry. Most of the time there are just a few specific things that can be done to bring you up to a pretty high score. It might take a few hours, but it will be worth the effort. Here’s where you can run a speed test:
User Interactions & Forms
Many of our Digital Church clients have several different forms for user interaction. Beyond the obvious contact form, we often implement forms for visitors to plan a visit to the church, register for events, share their testimony, or submit prayer requests. Take some time to go through every form on your website and submit a test entry. Just don’t forget to make sure that the notifications and integrations you have setup with that form are all firing properly.
One thing you definitely don’t want to happen is your site being taken down without your knowledge. Take a moment to check your billing and contact information for both your hosting and your domain registration, as well as any other critical services you might use to keep your website up and running. If the credit card you had on file has expired, you might end up with a canceled account before you know it. Be sure to check the email that is associated with that account as well so you know you don’t miss any messages from those providers.
If you haven’t checked into your Google Analytics account lately, now might be a good time to look over all the reports to make sure you don’t notice anything out of the ordinary. Some of the potential issues we have outlined above can contribute to your website not being returned in search results. If that’s the case, you might see a drop in your analytics. It might take some digging to figure out why, but you definitely want to know what’s going on.
Google Search Console
While we’re on the subject of Google Analytics, let’s also check in on the Google Search Console. If you haven’t set that up yet, that’s okay. A lot of people miss this step, but take the time now to set it up and make sure you have the ability to see how your website is being returned in search results. If you have pages that Google sees errors on, you should be able to find that in search console.
Test User Flows
Once you’ve really given everything a once-over from a technical standpoint, there’s one more thorough test you should complete. List out a few of your most critical user types and try to identify a flow for each one. Put together a simple flow chart of what you expect them to do, and then walk through the whole process as if you were that user. As you walk through it, ask yourself it the process seems natural or if you experience any friction moving through the path you have set.
Yikes! You changed your phone number four months ago and didn’t update your website info? I know, that seems absurd, but it happens all the time. Make sure your contact info on your website is up to date and in line with how you want people to contact you.
We’ve all seen this… You visit a website and scroll to the bottom to see the copyright notice identifies a date years in the past. There are a few schools of thought around this issue. Some people include the first year of publishing through the current year. Others opt out of displaying a year at all. We suggest you simply publish everything as copyright for the current year. We’ve written some code to automatically keep this up to date for our clients, but it’s always good to check. You don’t want to be “so 2019”, do you?