Understanding Trends in Church Websites: Mobile First is Growing

If you wanted to predict the future of the web, how would you go about doing it? Further, what if you wanted to know how people accessed and utilized their church’s website?

For starters, you take a look at the hard data. We’ve been collecting data on 50+ churches for over three years and the data, dear friends, is astounding. If I told you everything we’re uncovering through these analytics, your head might explode.

But, not one to disappoint, here’s a peek into where we’re going.

We wanted to know, with a degree of certainty, what the trends were surrounding church websites. Take viewing location, for instance. The data we’ll be looking at in this post measures four areas:

  1. Mobile
  2. Computer
  3. Tablet
  4. Others

Here at Monk, we’re definitely seeing a trend with churches wanting to design for mobile-first. We worked with The Village Church recently to create a site-wide responsive design. If you’re not familiar with responsive, it means a website is “aware” of the type of browser it’s being accessed on—mobile, tablet, or desktop—and “responds” accordingly.

(If you want to see responsive in action, go to Village Church’s website and adjust the size of your browser window. Watch the images move! This is responsive design in action.)

The trends towards mobile comes with good reason and concrete data. Here’s what our stats show: Nearly 97% of users accessed their church’s website via desktop in 2009:

Viewing2009

Keep in mind, this is only four years ago. Barack Obama was still a new President and poor ol’ Tiger Woods announced an “indefinite leave from professional golf” to work on his marriage. Seems like it was just yesterday but, of course, it wasn’t.

Our online viewing habits have changed significantly since then. Here’s how users accessed church websites in 2010:

JustinWisewebsite210

It isn’t a big change, but the divergence from desktop was just beginning to pick up steam. Keep in mind the first iPad was released in April 2010—a stake-in-the-ground moment for mobile/tablet usage. Here’s what the same chart in 2011 looked like:

JustinWiseviewinglocation2011

Desktop usage by church website users decreased 7.5% from 2009 to 2011. Desktop usage decreased another 1.7% in 2012, thus solidifying the downward trend for desktop internet use. Desktop is out. Mobile and tablet use is in. (Maybe that’s what led Google to declare “desktops will be irrelevant“…by 2013.)

Look at mobile-savvy cultures like India to see where the U.S. is headed in terms of website usage. According to Mary Meeker’s research, India become a mobile-first country in May 2012. for the first time in history, more people accessed the web in this country via mobile than did desktop.

JustinWisemobiletraffice 2012

This is not insignificant.

As the slide states, many more countries will follow. So will many churches. Organizations must begin considering a mobile-first environment. This can be especially daunting for churches who still wrestle with the purpose of their desktop-based website.

Conclusion

The data I’ve presented here is a small snippet of what we’ll be covering in our yearly “State of the Church Online” report, due out the end of this month. You can get early access to the report by joining our mailing list here.

Read more from Justin here.

Download PDF

Tags: , , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Communication >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Justin Wise

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Chris O — 04/08/13 8:39 am

Hey, it looks like png 1, 2, and 3 isn't coming through. Would love to see the data! :)

Recent Comments
I love Ed's writings and heart. I am frustrated by these articles, however. Much of the missiological basis of the Church Growth Movement are not mentioned, and the origination of the formulas are not substantiated. Also, the Movement via Wagner, started mentioning the importance of health over 3o years ago. I wish these articles were better researched and less sweeping in their generalizations. Things like E1, E2, E3 evangelism, group multiplication, relational networks, faith, health, and the care to measure the right things are largely missing here. Perhaps Ed has earned the right to generalize, but I still was disappointed. But keep researching Ed! Ed and Thom have continued on in the spirit of the movement by doing quality research, and for that I am deeply grateful.
 
— Gary Westra
 
This discussion will continue, for sure. I am tasked with the online worship ministry do our church at FBC Trussville and it is proving to be an important piece of the overall ministry. As in most things In life and technology, balance is in order. Many of our older adults prefer the "live" service online rather than a week or even day-later DVD or downloaded service. They tell me it is important for them to be a part while the service occurs. This is key because if a person simply wanted the message or music or to see the pastor because they "like" him, then it would not need to be live. There is a sense with our people that they need to experience the worship with their church family in real time. Theologically, folks will have issues. This is a disruptive technology for church. But I would hope that before we toss it all away we would approach it with wisdom and humility. Personally, I would like to see the Church grow through small, cost-effective ways like this and not just brick-and-mortar.
 
— Robby
 
It seems this was written awhile ago but I would like to respond. Mr. Surratt makes great points. Points that should be taken seriously by all churches. I just do not think these points are the main reason people are not coming back to churches. Who knows the exact reason why anyone does not come back unless they tell you, but I can say with certainty the reasons I do not return are usually the same. 1. Love, tolerance, and acceptance. (unbelievers, baby Christians) Church members seem to want their guests or potential members to behave a certain way. They want them to conform to the system that is already in place. In some ways this is understandable. In other ways, it is isolating to the guest. They want to feel loved and accepted the way they are. They want to be told everything is ok no matter their past. They want to be given time to work out their immediate more pressing issues without having to worry about what to wear and how to talk (church speak). 2. Love, tolerance, and acceptance (believers, unchurched) Many times, these people are looking for what fits their already preconceived ideas of what "good churches" are. These preconceived notions are difficult to overcome and some of them were addressed in Mr. Surratt's article. But I can tell you that a truly loving, a truly tolerant, and a truly accepting church can overcome most of these things. You may never be able to overcome a taste in music, or a theological difference, but most everything else can be healed with Love. 3. People can see the business aspect of the church. I see it almost immediately when I walk into certain churches for the first time. I think people understand that a church has many aspects of itself that are business oriented. I just believe they dont want to experience these aspects when they visit. How many churches are so focused on growth, in numbers of bodies, that they forget the growth of the heart? The American church is now fully Americanized. Its a show and a numbers game. People come to church, especially new comers, CRAVING to fill a void in their life. If you are offering the same thing they can get in the real world, how are you any different? There are plenty of other reasons people do not return and many may not be avoidable. However, the church as a whole needs to reevaluate the arena in which they are playing. The simplicity of the Gospel is good enough to fulfill the hearts of the unbelievers and restore the prodigal's to a relationship with Christ. Love thy neighbor as thyself and love thy God with all your heart.
 
— Shay Wallace
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.