1 Way Smart Churches Are Making Great First Impressions (Every Single Time)

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First impressions stick.

In many cases, they last forever.

So what kind of first impression is your church making?

First impressions stick. In many cases, they last forever.

All across the world, there are churches making great first impressions every day in their communities.

How?

By staying devoted to a single, smart strategy.

Are you ready to be one of those churches?

Keep reading.

Free Bonus: Click here to download The Perfect Church Homepage Infographic – a complete visual breakdown of the essential elements that every church website homepage needs

Your brain must form first impressions

When you really stop to think about it, first impressions are kind of silly.

Completing a full assessment of another person in just a couple of seconds? That doesn't sound smart to me at all.

But according to brain science, it's actually impossible for us not to make snap judgments about each other. It's simply how our brains are wired.1

According to brain science, it's impossible for us not to make snap judgments about each other

According to brain science, it's impossible for us not to make snap judgments about each other

This is crazy:

Every year the NBA drafts sixty new players to join the league. Naturally, the team that gets to pick first is expected to get the best player. And a player in the top ten of the draft is expected to be better than a player in the bottom ten.

But it doesn't always work out that way.

A player like Draymond Green (a multiple-time all-star) can get overlooked and won't get selected until the second round (pick #35).

Meanwhile, a player like Isaiah Thomas can get selected with the final pick of the entire draft (pick #60) and against all odds – not only become an all-star player – but even become a top-five MVP candidate ('16-'17).

What does this actually mean?

Sure. Players selected higher in the NBA draft generally have a greater chance of developing into quality players. But it doesn't always work that way.

In the NBA, first impressions of players are often wrong.

Just because a player was selected late in the draft doesn't mean they should have been. Constant evaluation of a player's ability and potential is a must if you want to be competitive in the high stakes world of professional sports.

In the NBA, first impressions of players are often wrong – even still, they rarely change

But that's just part of the story…

Two researchers from California Berkeley conducted a study that tested whether the amount teams spent for players in the NBA influenced how much playing time they got and how long they stayed with NBA franchises.2

The logical assumption would be that teams play and keep their most productive players.

But in a fascinating revelation, this assumption turned out to be wrong.

Results showed that teams granted more playing time to their most highly drafted players, even after controlling for players' on-court performance, injuries, trade status, and position played.

Bottom line:

  • First impressions stick
  • People tend to seek confirming evidence of their initial impressions and ignore disconfirming evidence3
  • Even in the high stakes world of professional sports, despite empirical evidence to the contrary, NBA teams will continue to devote playing time and salary to higher draft picks – not because of their on-court performance – but simply because of where they were selected in the draft

Free Bonus: Click here to download The Perfect Church Homepage Infographic – a complete visual breakdown of the essential elements that every church website homepage needs

For churches…first impressions happen online

According to Forbes, 97% of people search for local organizations online.4 And according to Hubspot, 46% of all searches on Google are local.5

Why does this matter?

It matters because, in decades past, your church's first impression would be formed in service – but today, your church's first impression is being formed online.

Every day people in your community are searching for a church online

Every day people in your community are searching for a church. But instead of checking out your service, they’re first checking out your website.

Before a family ever sets foot in your church's building, they'll have already visited your website.

A first impression will have already been made – online.

Bottom line:

  • 97% of people search for local organizations online
  • 46% of all searches on Google are local
  • Before a family/individual ever sets foot in your church's building, they'll have already visited your website and formed a first impression of your church

Online first impressions are formed instantaneously

How long does it take for a first impression to be made online? Not long at all.

It happens in an instant – literally. 

It takes only 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) for an individual to form a first impression about your website.6

And it takes just another 2.6 seconds for that individual's eyes to concentrate in a way that reinforces their first impression.7

The 1 smart way churches are making great first impressions? Their websites

What does this mean for you?

Simply put, making great first impressions should be one of your website's core responsibilities.

Bottom line:

  • It takes only 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) for a first impression to be made online
  • It takes an additional 2.6 seconds for a visitor to concentrate their eyes and reinforce their first impression
  • Making great first impressions should be the first and foremost aim of your church's website

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Surprisingly, first impressions are almost always design-related

A study was conducted by British researchers that looked at how different elements of a website contribute to first impressions.8

Surprisingly, the study revealed that the “look” and “feel” of a website is the overwhelming main driver of great first impressions.

In fact, of all the feedback researchers got from participants in the study, 94% was about design (too complex, too busy, poor navigation, too much text, feels too corporate, etc.).9

Stanford University credibility experts made similar findings. In a separate study, the Stanford experts found that what people ‘say' about how they evaluate trust of a website and how they really ‘do' it is very different.10

Interestingly, the average person pays far more attention to the superficial aspects of a site (the design) than the actual content itself.

Google has also confirmed this to be true.

In their study, Google found that websites with low visual complexity performed the best. To quote Google directly, “Users strongly prefer website designs that look both simple and familiar.”11

Bottom line:

  • The “look” and “feel” of a website are the main drivers of great first impressions
  • In a study of first impressions online, 94% of participant feedback was web design related
  • Studies revealed that what people ‘say' about they evaluate trust of a website is very different from how they actually ‘do' it
  • The average person pays far more attention to the superficial aspects of a site (the design) than the actual content itself
  • Google found that websites with low visual complexity performed best
  • Users love simple and familiar designs
  • Quality web design builds trust and gets people to stick around; poor design creates mistrust and gets people to leave
The “look” and “feel” of a website are the main drivers of great first impressions

The “look” and “feel” of a website are the main drivers of great first impressions

5 specific ways your church can make great first impressions with your website

Okay. Now that we've established how churches are making great first impressions using their websites. How can you do the same?

Let's get specific.

Firstly, he team at Nucleus analyzed more than 1,000+ church websites from more than 30+ different countries and found that 96.2% of church websites make a poor first impression.

Not good.

Of course, it doesn't have to be this way. Here are five specific ways your church can make great first impressions with your website.

1. An inspirational photo/video at the top of the page
One of the best ways to make great first impressions with your church's website is to place an inspirational photo or video at the top of your homepage

One of the best ways to make great first impressions with your church's website is to place an inspirational photo or video at the top of your homepage

In a study of first impressions on travel websites, the research found that “inspiration-related elements” had the greatest impact on how first impressions were made.12

They say a picture is worth a thousand words – and the data seems to support that claim.

One of the best ways to make great first impressions with your church's website is to place an inspirational photo or video at the top of your homepage.

This is why the Nucleus framework offers not one, but two containers at the top of every Nucleus to showcase beautiful imagery of the life of your church.

So ask yourself, “What kind of imagery would inspire my target audience to attend our church for the first time?”

Maybe it's imagery of people in your church laughing and living in community. Maybe it's a vibrant kids ministry. Maybe it's passionate worship and teaching.

To be inspired by other churches doing this well, here's a list of 19 church websites with great photos/videos at the top of their homepage (pay particular attention to #1, #2, and #14).

2. Prioritize design – not usability

When it comes to first impressions on your church's website, it's all about the look and feel. New visitors don't particularly care about the usability of your site.

Take a look at this:

A study found that attractive sites are more likely to pull in users than unattractive sites – regardless of how well they are designed from a usability standpoint.

On the other hand, unattractive sites, despite high usability, do not attract user interest.13

To make a point, it doesn't matter what advanced functionality or features your church's website possesses – if the design quality isn't solid, new visitors will never use the site anyway.

3. Above the fold is still most important
We've engineered the 'above the fold' section of Nucleus with the primary aim of making great first impressions

We've engineered the ‘above the fold' section of Nucleus with the primary aim of making great first impressions

The term ‘above the fold' is a design phrase describing what a visitor to your website sees on their screen before they begin scrolling.

This is, by far, the most important part of your church's website.

In a study carried out by Nielsen, users spent 80.3% of their time on web pages above the fold, and only 19.7% below.14

Think about it: if the average visitor to your website spends 80% of their attention focused on just one part of your website – it's important to make that one part awesome.

It's also important to remember that first impressions are formed online in less than a second. This is why, despite contradictory claims, the ‘above the fold' segment of your website is still the most crucial portion of your entire website.

This is why we've engineered the ‘above the fold' section of Nucleus with the primary aim of making great first impressions.

4. Make sure your website loads fast

Nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less. And they tend to abandon a site if it doesn't load within 3 seconds.15

Nucleus did a case study of more than 1,000+ church websites and found that 38.3% failed the speed test.

Use the Pingdom Website Speed Test to see how the speed of your church website stacks up.

5. The Perfect Homepage
The Nucleus framework is engineered to include every element users expect to see on a homepage

The Nucleus framework is engineered to include every element users expect to see on a homepage

In an eye-tracking study by Missouri S&T, researchers examined the elements of a website that draw the most attention from users.16

The findings were as follows:

  • Logo: The website element that commanded the most attention from visitors was the logo – users spent an average of 6.48 seconds focused on an organization's logo
  • Navigation Menu: Second to the logo was the website's menu – users spent an average of 6.44 seconds viewing the menu
  • Primary Image: Users spent an average of 5.94 seconds fixated on the main image of a website
  • Main Content: Users spent an average of 5.59 seconds on the website's written content
  • Footer: Users spent an average of 5.25 seconds perusing the bottom of the website
  • Other: The search box and social network links each captured about 6 seconds of attention

Based on these findings, it's important that your church's website has each of the elements listed above present on your homepage.

These are the elements of a website that command the most attention – thus, they should be the most readily available.

The Nucleus framework is engineered to reflect the data captured above. Knowing that the logo and menu command the most attention from users, both are featured in sequential order on the Nucleus homepage – at the very top of the page.

Beyond that, every Nucleus comes with a primary image container at the top of the page, followed by the main content and footer. Meanwhile, the search box is positioned inside the navigation menu and the social links are found in the footer.

Conclusion

First impressions stick. And in many cases, they last forever.

All across the world, churches are making great first impressions – and they're doing it using their websites.

How?

Well, when it comes to making great first impressions online, the “look” and “feel” of a website is the main driver.

New visitors don't particularly care about the usability of your site. The design is what really matters. And the websites that perform best are both “simple” and “familiar.”

Want to know the best part? You don't need to spend a ton of money to have a website that makes great first impressions.

Design your church's website by following the best practices detailed in this article (or just build your church's website using Nucleus), and your church will be well on its way to making great first impressions online – every single time.

Free Bonus: Click here to download The Perfect Church Homepage Infographic – a complete visual breakdown of the essential elements that every church website homepage needs