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Should I welcome people to the church web site?

October 26th, 2009

An awful lot of church web sites have some kind of welcome message on them. I guess this is because we want to be welcoming to people, but does saying welcome do this? Most savvy designers will be able to tell you that welcomes on a web site are not the done thing. Why is this and should we take any notice?

Here are some of the arguments:

  1. It’s obvious that people are welcome to your web site.
    If you didn’t want to welcome people then you wouldn’t have built the site in the first place!
  2. It take up room.
    Space on a web site, especially a front page, is very precious. Anything extra that clogs up a page and makes it too complex is not a good idea and on a front page you want to use every bit of the visible page to encourage people to get stuck into the content of your site. Taking up room saying something that is assumed anyway is just plain wasteful.
  3. It takes time to read it.
    Some recent research I read said that most people take less than 1 second to decide if they want to take a look at your site. I guess this is about the time it might take someone to read a welcome message. Don’t underestimate the speed with which people hop from site to site.
  4. The site should speak for itself
    If you go to Google’s web site (or IBM, or Microsoft, or Yahoo, etc, etc) do you see any welcome message? No. The site says welcome and take a look around – you don’t have to say it.
  5. People don’t really read web sites anyway
    When people first come to a web site they tend to skim rather than read. They look for words that stand out that might answer their questions. Welcomes do nothing for this but instead just offer words that a user must get through before they can get what they really want.
  6. Welcomes are nonsense when a person returns to a web site
    We all want people to return to our web site don’t we? At least I hope we do! The second time someone comes to a site the welcome message makes no sense anyway. And don’t think this calls for a clever bit of cookie coding because people get even more annoyed if they return to a site and find they have to work out all over again how to get to what they wanted. Removing a welcome message can cause confusion.

Sadly welcome messages also often deteriorate into descriptions of what people will find on the web site. This should be done by meaningful links and not messages.

The sad truth is that most people are generally not really interested in what we are proud of. They come to web sites looking for information and not for descriptions of things that we are trying to achieve. They don’t want to know that we want to welcome them warmly they want to feel the warmth from what is on the site.

Of course, some will want to argue that it personalizes the site but this is really best done through the design and content. People aren’t fooled just because someone says “welcome”.

web building