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.

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Justin Wise

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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
Great article as usual from Ed.
 
— Jim Bradshaw
 
I recently left the church where I had attended for 10 years & have been looking for another church home. I visited several in cities that were a distance away- 35 minutes, 1 hr & 1.5 hrs. I could see myself serving in any of those churches, but would like some place closer. I tried several in the town where I live, but no luck so far. One service was supposed to start at 10, but didn't start til 10:20 & the "announcements" took up- no exaggeration- 30+ minutes! THEN they called a guy up to "pray over the offering" He proceeded to whip the congregation into being cheerful givers: "What time is it saints?" [mumble, mumble] "I said, what time is it?" "HAPPY TIME!"- this went on for 15 minutes. ONE hour after their supposed start time, they actually began praise & worship! Another church I went to locally was ok, but the morning I visited there, near the end of the sermon, the pastor announced in his sermon, "I'm not one of those educated preachers! I'm just a simple man with a simple message; I don't get into the Old Testament & all the feast days & all that....I like to stick with the gospels." Nothing wrong with the Gospels, but it's like going to Golden Corral & only eating at the taco bar...good stuff but you're missing out on so much! Needless to say, that was my confirmation to move on... I'm currently driving 1.5 hrs on Sunday nights to attend an excellent church in Charlotte.
 
— Cathy
 
I have an autoimmune disorder. It would be nice if the 'meet & greet' didn't include "Shake the hand of 10 people" Basically it all seems so artificial anyway. Once you sit down can you remember that person's name, color of their eyes, anything they said? My church has an information area with a live person behind the counter. However, the person behind the counter is clueless as to what is happening at the church, which groups they have or where they meet. Basically that person can't answer any questions. The church also has a website. It informs you when the services are, a few of the groups that are available but very little information about what the groups entail or who to contact for each group. There isn't a calendar of events. They are very impressed with themselves since they have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. Defeats the purpose if it's all about past events. The rest of the top 10 - luckily don't fit the church I attend.
 
— Jean
 

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