Here you are, finally with a budget and senior staff sign off on building your church a new website. How exciting! Seriously, it probably took months, maybe years to get here. Now you need to start ironing out who you are going to use and how they will build the site of your dreams, in your budget and with your brand in mind.
Narrow Your Results
First off, know your budget. Do you have $2,000 to spend? or $10,000? These are vastly different site developers. Don’t kick the tires of the $10,000 companies hoping they will have a special price for you. You are wasting their time and yours. If the company doesn’t showcase their pricing front and center, or at least offer some sort of range, present your budget in the quote request. Let them know you have $4,000-$5,000 to spend. Or $500 to spend. If they can’t help you, hopefully they will let you know right away and point you in some other direction.
Check out the Church Marketing Sucks resources and ask around. The Church Marketing Lab is a great place to have conversations with other great church communication pros. Also look around. What other churches, non profits and business sites you like and who built them.
Look at the portfolios, but don’t stop there. All web developers put their best work up front, and some put work that is not the production piece. Google the company name, and see some of their other work. Keep in mind with both the good and the bad, most often the content is not their doing. So pink comic sans on the kids ministry graphic or the amazing 3D sermon series artwork are often the product of a site admin and church staff/volunteer.
Know Your Needs
Mobile responsive? Blogs? Sermon media grids? The more you know your content, styles and key deliverables, the better you can direct the proposal and the project. It’s so much easier to set all the constraints, needs and known facts upfront on the table for discussion. Surprises in construction of anything costs time and money.
Template or Custom?
Know which you need and want. For some, this may be a function of your budget. Not everyone needs to re-invent the wheel, but for me personally, I have never been to a church just like any other in brand, style, demographics or culture. So it’s tough to see a template with a dropped in brand being a great fit.
Who Will Manage the Site?
When it’s all done and live, who updates the content, images and podcasts? Someone with some basic web and Photoshop skills? or the church secretary who knows Word? This can help the web design company plan and coordinate the training and construction to make this a good fit.
Write a Brief
Outline all of the above items in a clear cut one page document. Share this with web companies as early in the process as you can. Albert Einstein once said If you can not explain it quickly, you don’t understand it well enough. Download a sample brief as well as a blank brief in PDF and a Word doc.
Review the Proposals
Hopefully your brief will keep the proposals in the same league, and you can compare apples to apples. Review upfront costs, as well as ongoing costs. Many companies will have monthly server costs. Often this is just hosting, say $15-$30 a month. But others may charge upwards of $100 a month.
Know Who Owns It
Do you own the site? or are you just borrowing it? I know some pretty big (but talented companies), that bill $2,000-8,000, in addition to $100+ a month, and the church is just leasing the site, with no access to the code or any ability to move the finished site to another host. This works for some people, but keep it in mind when comparing proposals.
What’s Your Experience?
Share! What did you do before hand and how did the results turn out? Share a link to your church site in the comments if you’re proud of it!
We’re thrilled to partner with Creative Missions (our nonprofit parent, the Center for Church Communication, handles the Creative Missions finances). Learn more about Creative Missions and this year’s trip to Alaska and consider a financial donation to help church communicators help other churches communicate better.
For more helpful tips like this, check out Dangerous: A Go-to Guide for Church Communication. It’s a booklet of articles by Creative Missions alumni offering a crash course in church marketing basics.