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10 Common Synagogue Website Mistakes

10 common synagogue website mistakes Posted on October 4, 2018
by Hirsch Fishman

Trust us, we understand. Maintaining a website is hard work, but it’s critical for the success of your congregation. All organizations, synagogues included, are evaluated in part by the appearance of their website. This may sound harsh, but it’s true.

Within seconds of landing on your homepage, visitors are making snap-judgment decisions about your synagogue.

It’s unfair, but an outdated design or a poor user experience can negatively impact a prospective member’s decision to get to know your congregation. First impressions matter. 

By avoiding these 10 synagogue website mistakes, you’ll be on the road to making your community shine online

1. Tiny Font

Outdated synagogue website designs tend to share a common characteristic – teeny, tiny font. No one should have to strain their eyes to read your website. Body text should be at least a size 12. Anything less guarantees a lousy experience for your readers.

2. Social Media Icons at the Top of the Homepage

Think about it. A visitor comes to your website and you are immediately inviting them to go somewhere else? This makes no sense. Connecting your synagogue website to social media is a great thing, but save it for the bottom of your homepage. Give prospective members an opportunity to explore your website before directing them to your Facebook page.

3. Outdated Information

Keeping your synagogue website up-to-date is important. As soon as the High Holidays end that information needs to come down. It’s ok to continue to share sermons, but service times or the link to view the Rosh Hashanah live stream – not so much. A current homepage establishes your website as a reliable source of information – which is exactly what you want.

4. Posting Event Flyers on the Homepage

Event flyers are beautiful, but they lose their impact when reduced in size and placed on your homepage. They are impossible to read, the design often doesn’t match your website, and there is no functionality. It’s a common practice and one that we encourage synagogues to phase out. Event flyers and your homepage just don’t mix.

5. Content Overload

Be selective when it comes to your homepage. Set rules and parameters for what content will appear. Your homepage is not an online bulletin board- it’s the virtual front door to your community. Cluttering your homepage with every upcoming event makes it hard for your readers to focus on what you actually want them to read. Less is more when it comes to website design.

6. Uneven Design

If you’ve updated your synagogue website within the past five years, chances are it’s responsive in design. This means that your website adjusts in relation to the size of the screen being used to view the site. This also means that the blocks on your homepage change according to the amount of content you add. More text and larger images result in a bigger block. This is mostly a good thing, but it can be tricky for synagogues to manage.

Try not to think of blocks in isolation. When adding content to a particular block, consider how it will impact the blocks to the left or right. Otherwise, you end up with a really long block next to a tiny block. The end result is extra white space and a disjointed design.

7. Focusing Too Much on Current Members

Always remember that your website is a shared space. Balancing the needs of current and prospective members isn’t easy, but it’s a must.  Nearly half of your visitors are viewing your website for the very first time.

If your homepage is overly focused on topics that primarily appeal to members then you aren’t reaching those checking you out for the first time.

It’s not enough to have a link on your website directing people to complete a membership application. That comes later. First, use your website to let people get to know you. Give them a preview of how your community can enhance and enrich their lives.

8. Photos of Empty Sanctuaries

The photographs used on your synagogue website are powerful. Think about what a photo of an empty sanctuary is saying. Such an image certainly doesn’t give off a warm, welcoming, or even interesting vibe. In fact, the opposite is true. Images of desolate sanctuaries feel lonely and well, empty – definitely not the image (no pun intended) that you are trying to convey.

Read on for more information on why you should just say no to empty sanctuary pics on your synagogue website -> 

9. Not Actively Updating Your Synagogue Website

If you haven’t updated your website for weeks or even months, are displaying the same stale photos from events that took place years ago or are still promoting events that already took, you are asking for trouble. Don’t be surprised if your members stop using your site and don’t consider your website as the most relevant place to find out what’s happening at the synagogue. Basically, if you aren’t using your website, why should your members? Make your synagogue website something people will want to visit. 

10. Blurry or Low-Quality Images

What’s the difference between a great synagogue website and one that’s only mediocre? The answer lies in the quality of its images.  Take a look at our list of the best Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist websites. These congregations are diverse in size, location, and denomination, but they all showcase powerful visuals.

Let your website’s photos tell your story and support your mission. 

It’s not enough to simply state that you are a warm and welcoming congregation. By displaying photos of a cross-section of your synagogue’s members, your website brings your words to life.  Struggling to find images for your synagogue website? Here are three cost-effective ways to find photos

Final Thoughts

Your synagogue website is powerful. When done well, it can grow membership, build revenue, enhance communication, and attract prospective members. The opposite is also true. Let your synagogue website tell an inviting story of your community. You only get one chance to make a positive first impression.

Get in Touch 

We are here to answer any questions you may have about Addicott Web, our services, or how we can design and build an affordable new website for your synagogue. Let’s talk.

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About Hirsch Fishman

Hirsch has been working professionally with websites since 2001, working exclusively in, and focusing on, the Jewish community. Hirsch offers a wide range of website knowledge to his synagogue web design clients from his years of experience working in the Jewish community. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.