Make Your Synagogue’s Website Something People Will Want to Visit

Written by Hirsch Fishman

When it comes down to it, the core purpose of a synagogue’s website is to communicate information about the synagogue to members and the larger community. In order to meet this goal, an ideal synagogue website should be (1) well-designed so that it reflects positively on the synagogue; (2) allow members to accomplish tasks that are common to life in the synagogue community; and (3) be intuitively organized so that visitors can easily find what they’re looking for.

In reality, so many synagogues across all the major denominations have websites that are outdated, disorganized, difficult to use, or some combination of the three, that members avoid them at all costs, and the synagogue staff avoids trying to do anything with the website.

This should not be the case, to say the least.

Having an outstanding synagogue website that your synagogue’s members actually want to visit takes a lot of work – starting with redesigning it with a modern, welcoming, visually-interesting look and feel and building it using a modern content management system such as WordPress. But more importantly, the synagogue needs a long-term strategy for how they’re going to get people to actually use the website, which starts by getting members to know that it is the number one place they will information communicated by the synagogue.

To that end, here are three strategies to help synagogues accomplish that.

Start actively updating the website

If your website contains information that hasn’t been updated for weeks or months at a time; displays the same stale photos from events that took place years ago; or is still prominently promoting events that already took place – and does so in an unattractive, outdated website design that isn’t mobile-friendly – don’t be surprised if your members stop using it and stop valuing it.

Not every page on the synagogue’s website needs to be updated on a regular basis – for example, generic details about the synagogue’s religious policies, or about what the Men’s Club or Sisterhood do. But there is plenty of content that does need to be updated on a regular basis, such as:

  • Event calendars, so that only future events appear
  • Lists of board members and committee chairs, so that the correct people are listed
  • Photos scattered throughout the website, so that they remain current and relevant

Another helpful tip? Make sure that any pages that contain “letters” from committee chairs are updated with new content once that person is done serving as the chair. I can’t tell you how many committee, Men’s Club, or Sisterhood pages I’ve seen that show letters from people who were the chair years ago.

If you’re not updating your synagogue’s website with relevant information on a regular basis, don’t be surprised if your members stop using it and stop considering it as the most relevant place to find out what’s happening at the synagogue.

Start driving people to the website

Almost all synagogues publish monthly bulletins and send out weekly email blasts to their members. That’s all well and good, but if synagogues really want to get people to use their websites as the central repository of information about what’s going on, they might want to consider what’s contained in those newsletters and bulletins.

Are they crammed with every little bit of information about what’s going on at the synagogue, yet the website remains outdated as I described above? No wonder people don’t go to the synagogue’s website! Why would they when everything they need to know they get in an email?

Here’s the thing to remember when it comes to weekly email blasts and monthly newsletters – they are simply a means of notification. Period. You want people to use the synagogue’s website more? Stop posting event information in its entirety in the email. Start posting just the basic details in the newsletter and instead drive people to the website where the rest of the information is, which can be done using a combination of linked text and smartly-chosen images.

Make a deliberate shift to doing this and your members will learn to use the website and stop being so reliant on emails.

Of course, if the synagogue uses the email newsletter as a crutch because the website runs on a platform that is so outdated and/or difficult to update, then there are bigger fish to fry than just the content of the email newsletters.

Ditto for Facebook.

Start making the website task-oriented

There are some basic tasks that synagogue members should, at a minimum, be able to accomplish when visiting the website. Needless to say, if your website isn’t task-oriented and doesn’t let people do what they want, don’t be surprised if people don’t use it.

Here are some basic examples of what I mean:

  • Posting information about an event and at the end of the description, telling people to call the synagogue office to RSVP. Solution: enable event registration, preferably with the ability to pay by credit card.
  • Listing the funds that donors can contribute towards, and then telling people where they can send their check. Solution: build an online donation form.
  • Giving directions to the synagogue from various directions, but then not giving people a way to visualize where the synagogue is located. Solution: embed a Google map.

If synagogue members know that they can do the routine tasks commonly associated with synagogue life – and especially when it comes to online payments, something that there is a basic expectation to be able to do in today’s day and age – they’ll be more likely to use the website.

Contact us today

A synagogue website is only as good as how much it is used, which is why we build all of our websites with these strategies and functionalities in mind. Contact us today to get started on building a new, useful, and engaging website that your synagogue’s members will actually want to use!

About Hirsch Fishman

Hirsch Fishman is a professional web designer who has worked with synagogues and organizations in the Jewish community since 2006. Originally from Albany, NY, he has previously lived in New York City and Chicago, and currently resides in Raleigh, NC.

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