What is your favorite website? What site do you go to over and over again? It's probably not your church's — even if you designed and produced it.

And the sobering truth is; that your congregation will never say your church website is their favorite place to go online either. It will never happen.

So should we just give up on creating a good church website then? No. In fact, on the contrary, let's take a look at America's favorite websites and learn from them. According to the latest traffic rankings, here are the top five websites (and their estimated unique visitors/month):

  1. Google (1.1 billion)
  2. YouTube (1 billion)
  3. Facebook (900 million)
  4. Yahoo (750 million)
  5. Amazon (500 million)

Anything surprising? Wikipedia, eBay, Twitter, Bing and MSN finish off the top 10 most popular sites.

What can we learn from this list? Can your church (which probably ranks outside of the top 100,000 websites) possibly take away from those that cost a gazillion dollars compared to yours? Plenty. Open the top five and see what I'm talking about.

Here are three simple things:

1. Learn what web paradigm is and stick to it

Paradigm is what "most" popular website designs follow. It's that comfortable feeling that occurs when you get to a website for the first time, and you instantly know where things are and how to navigate.

You need to follow these essentials in order to have your website feel natural to everyone:

  • Headers are a simple space at the top. It's getting shorter and compressed A small logo is in the top left. There's a site-wide search area contained inside.
  • A menu is found just under the header or down the left side. Occasionally there's a "secondary menu" in the header (upper right near the search area). The menu is simple, self-explanatory and organized.
  • There’s a simple main content delivery area. Near the center of the page slightly to the left. Why? People tend to spend more time on the left side of a webpage.
  • The footer is a small space at the bottom. It usually contains the menu again, a privacy policy (if you collect data from forms, etc) and a site map that can help SEO.

2. People want something from your site

Make sure you deliver it simply. These websites clearly demonstrate great content and anticipate how people are searching and looking for that content. Their menus deliver what people are looking for and no more. Design never gets in the way of content.

Watch your page views to identify what people are looking for and stop pushing content that no one is interested in.

3. Get responsive

Have a tablet or smartphone? I dare say you've been to these sites on your mobile device. Because of the small screen size, every website needs to look a bit different when "interpreted" in a small space. Responsive websites do the translation seamlessly.

What am I talking about? If you're reading this article on a desktop or laptop, shrink the browser down to the size of a phone. As the browser changes shape, watch as the content adjusts to fit in the space.

You need a responsive website for your church. According to ComScore, 40 percent of time spent online is on a mobile device. And it's growing quickly!

You'll never produce your community's favorite site. But let's learn and follow in the steps of the popular ones. Your congregation will be extremely happy you did.