Following are excerpts of articles about upcoming communication trends. I read through many similar articles and these are representative of what many had to say.
Though lists like these are interesting to read, without application they can be frustrating, so along with the excerpts are comments and links to resources on the Effective Church Communication website that will help you put these materials into practice.
Below the titles are links for the full articles.
Web Design Trends for 2014 By Gavin Richardson
Excerpt of what the author sees as important on websites for the coming year:
From 25 to 35 percent of many websites’ total traffic will come through mobile devices. The number of mobile device users is growing. Having a website designed to adapt to each device is critical.
Before this trend began to emerge, you had to build a second website for mobile devices, which created extra work to maintain a second site. Most likely, you just let your site be as it is on a mobile device, which does not provide an optimal user experience.
Mobile responsiveness for websites is very important and will continue to grow—actually, it probably already has with the thousands of people who got smart phones and tablets for Christmas. For a site to be mobile responsive means that it will resize automatically to fit whatever device is used to view it—laptop, smart phone, tablet, desktop computer.
The following article and video illustrate and explain what is meant by a responsive site. Unlike many technological innovations, this one is easy to implement because if your church website is based on WordPress (and most are), the newer templates will do this for you automatically.
A primer on responsive websites, what they are and why they are important
The following two trends go together:
Perhaps the biggest change for many church websites is a move toward minimalism. The past practice has been to put as much information as possible in front of your site visitors. This makes for a busy, cluttered and often confusing front-page. Because of the growing use of mobiles for viewing webpages and emerging app culture, this show-everything trend is passé.
With a minimalist design, you remove content and decide what content is most important for users to focus on. The focus might be to share who you are as a congregation or an important event of the church. Possibly, the focus could be to have people follow a call-to-action and sign up for an email list.
Trends change frequently. Once, the trend was to have a website with many graphics that had many textures and gradients. The aim was to give depth to the site. The new web design trend is more minimalist in order to be less distracting and drive focus on the content aim of your website.
Flat design can be elegant and aesthetically pleasing when done well. Even with a flat design, your graphic design can give depth to important page elements or calls to action. The level of depth and manipulation of graphics will be significantly less than in the past.
For years I've ranted against excessively complex, graphics heavy web pages (or print and newsletter ones also). One reason is because the content of the Christian faith is what is of primary importance, not simply how we feel about it. Designers tend to love images, but images are not consistent in what they communicate. The following article explains this in more detail:
Why it is incorrect to think that graphic images mean the same thing to everyone who sees them
5 Top Social Marketing Predictions by Marija Hamed
Excerpt: these are actually her points from a short, but helpful video
#1 Photo Sharing—bigger than ever
#2 Mobile—be conscious of how your material looks on mobile devices
#3 Google+ —recommendation that you need a G+ account for your business
#4 Customer Service—even more will be handled via social media and customers will expect it.
#5 Stats—check them out more to know what is working and what isn't.
On Photo Sharing: Something to think about: in the past, churches were very careful about who shared what photos, particularly of children and single women on staff. Today every image of everyone is splashed all over Facebook, Instagram, and other sites. It is a little bit shocking to see your image, as has happened to me a number of times, totally without my permission, on church websites or members Facebook pages. I'm not sure what to do about it other than to talk about it—we can't control it. I do think that it would be wise to pray for protection, particularly for our children.
Customer Service—to translate that into the church setting, churches MUST answer emails and other social media requests, comments, questions! I continue to be astounded at the churches that publish email addresses, Facebook, and Twitter contact information and then do not respond or interact with people who try to reach them. Please, don't publish social media contacts that you don't respond to. If a senior pastor or other staff member will not answer his or her own social media (my husband doesn't, he just isn't into that, but is honest about it) designate someone to do it for them.
I'm not recommending Google+ for churches presently, not because it isn't a great tool (probably is, I don't know, haven't gotten into it yet myself), but because so many churches still don't update their basic website or the social media they have. Remember it isn't how many social media icons you have on your site that make it meaningful—it's how quickly, compassionately, and biblically you respond and interact through the channels you have.
Stats—This recommendation is incredibly important. It doesn't matter what a staff members favorite way to communicate is or what is most popular in blogs—what matters is if your people are responding or not to the tools you use. If you don't track it, you won't know. The following book is essential reading to help you in this area.
It is free to Effective Church Communication Members (along with over 30 other books on church communications). After the book link is a link to a video and FREE forms to help you in your evaluation process.
Book: Church Communications Planning, Measuring, Evaluating done a new way—big is busted, try tiny!
Turn the Other Tweet: Social Media Resolutions for 2014 by Rev. James Martin, S.J.
Excerpts from a wonderful blog:
1.) I will treat everyone with charity and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. No matter how rude they are. And no matter how many times they post annoying comments that make me want to stop typing, put on my coat, drive to their town, knock on their door and sock them. Because Jesus never did that when he posted stuff online. Jesus told us always to turn the other tweet.
2.) I will avoid posting anything anywhere when I'm so angry that I can barely type--or speak. Especially speak. That's a tip-off.
3.) I will avoid being drawn into an argument with anyone who is apparently (a) crazy; (b) not listening; or (c) both. Even if they call me (a) stupid, (b) a heretic, or my latest favorite insult (which happened the other day) a "poor excuse for a Christian." I will not be drawn into a pointless argument that will be a waste of time. For both of us.
8.) I will look for news and articles and photos that help people see the workings of grace and that spotlight those in need, and will bring them to people's attention.
9.) I will remember that my goal is not followers or likes but to help people like and follow God.
10.) I will post less and pray more.
All wonderful, especially the last three which I pray will be goals for all of us in the coming year and always. I appreciate his gentle tone in all his writings.
Please read the following blog post for a related approach to church communications.
Do not confuse irreverence for relevancy in church communications
Please share if you see other trends that would be useful for churches or your comments on the ones listed above.