Should we build and App for our church?
I’m surprised how often I hear that question. It’s not a bad question, but its typically THE question I here about mobile technologies which for me is a little bit of the cart before the horse.
Clearly Apps are all the rage, but I would say the vast majority of churches are missing an important first step: getting your church website to work on a mobile phone and work efficiently. My company, Liturgical Publications, hosts over 400 church websites around the country. In looking at Google Analytics last month, I was surprised to find that over 20% of all Internet traffic going to these church websites are now coming from mobile devices. Within that 20%, here’s how they breakdown by phone type:
2014 – The Year Mobile Takes the Lead
If you don’t think 20% is a lot, just wait. By 2014, there will be more mobile devices accessing the Internet than PCs and laptops. Mobile is clearly something that we need to account for and something that will only gain importance over time.
The pie graph above confirms today’s mobile market. It’s the iPhone and Android that are winning the day. Together the iPhone/iPad/iPod make up the majority of mobile devices accessing church websites, but Android-based phones have a substantial and probably growing percentage. Blackberries and Windows Phone are way down the pack. My personal assumption is we will see a rise in Windows Phones, but the days of the Blackberry are over.
Is Your Church Website Mobile Enabled?
As a church web administrator, what can you do? The first steps are simple, but depending on your web platform, the remaining steps may be more challenging. The first step is to test your church website on both an iPhone and an Android. Do your site work on those devices? Chances are unless they’re heavily based on Flash technology, they’ll work to some degree, but are they actually useable?
If someone is accessing your church website from a mobile phone chances are they’re looking for some of the following content:
- Directions to your church
- Church Mass Times
- Church contact info (names, phone #s, and email addresses)
If you have access to an iPhone and Android smartphone, try both. Can you bring up the information above in a few clicks? Or is the screen so small it’s virtually impossible without a lot of clicking, expanding, and contracting of the screen?
If you can do this easily, count yourself as in the group of the lucky (or smart) ones! If not, you have some work to do. You need to figure out if your website platform supports a mobile template. If you use WordPress you’re in luck as there’s plenty of free or very reasonable mobile templates out there. Joomla!-based sites probably have a few good ones to choose from as well although I’m unsure of the costs. If you’re using something else or you did custom development you’re going to have to go back to your solution provider and ask them for assistance.
If you’re looking for a new website solution, we’ve been compiling a list of solution providers here. Some of these support mobile devices and some do not. It’s important that you read the details and do your homework. Being mobile compatible and having a mobile template are two different things. Mobile compatible generally means the website should run on most or all mobile devices. Whereas a mobile template means you’re website has a separate template that’s optimized for the mobile platform. Your website should automatically detect what device the user is using and present your typical website or a mobile optimized template if your website things the user is using a mobile device. If you’re confused on the difference between a mobile optimized and mobile template site, just pull up this website, catholictechtalk.com on a mobile device. You’ll see a greatly simplified home page that’s using a mobile template optimized for the mobile platform.
Mobile templates used to be a luxury that only the higher end websites would have. Now, given the growing pervasiveness of mobile devices they’re a component your website can’t afford to be without.