Initial review of Nucleus - A church website builder

As most of you know, I’m a worship leader. The majority of content on my blog is about worship ministry. But I am equally as passionate about church marketing and communications. I’ve been following Brady Shearer and his team at ProChurch Tools ever since 2015, and in my opinion, they are the best source for growing in your knowledge of how to leverage digital tools to accomplish the mission of your church. Be sure to follow them.

A few months ago they launched Nucleus, a website builder for churches. I signed up because I had a feeling this would be a better solution for our church than our current Squarespace website. Upon signing up, I created a video explaining why I did it.

A few days ago, I finally had time to sit down and build our new website on Nucleus. In total, it took me about 4 hours to build the site. That includes the time I spent watching some of the support videos, so I knew what I was doing. The fact that it took me about a half working day to build the site speaks to the simplicity of this builder. At the recording of this video, the website is nearly complete, and we have not yet switched over the domain mapping from our Squarespace site.

In the rest of this article, I want to walk you through my experience building out the website, and I’ll share my initial review of the platform.

The process of building the Nucleus Website

The first thing I did was spend some time watching their support videos and reading their articles. I was sure to spend some time getting to know how Nucleus works before I went poking around. I’m not usually a read the directions type of guy, but I'm glad I did because the support videos taught me how the builder worked in a matter of minutes. That’s the way it should be. It’s 2018. You shouldn’t have to know how to use code to build a website. Builders should be drag and drop. That’s the case for Nucleus. Even the most technologically inept person can figure it out if they spend a few minutes watching the training videos.

Not long after watching a few videos, I was ready to dive in and start building my site. Nucleus sites are built on cards, traditionally known as pages. You build out the site by adding cards. They’ve created a bunch of card templates for the most critical web pages on your church website. My least favorite part of building a site is filling in all the details for headlines and copy. Sometimes I don’t know exactly how to word things. Nucleus saves you a bunch of time with these templates. For some of my cards, I went through and changed all references Hope Church to Mission Lakewood and voila, the page was done.

Here’s the thing with church websites. You don’t always need to try and be original. Whether it’s using proven copy or a template with proven user experience, don’t try to reinvent the wheel, because your wheel sucks. Brady and his team are the experts on digital marketing for churches. Nucleus is their way of doing all the heavy lifting for your website and ensuring you don’t mess it up. I’m a pretty web-savvy guy, and even I prefer using the Nucleus templates rather than build this from the ground up. Plus it saved me a ton of time.

Customizing the cards is easy. You can change the banner image, the color, and then you use the drag and drop editor to build out the page. As a long-time Squarespace user, I felt right at home.

Once I built out the cards, I customized the primary navigation, which is also really easy to do. I also customize the layout of the cards on the homepage by putting them in the right order and hiding the ones I did not want to be displayed.

I went into the general settings of the website to add the background image, headline, and all the other boring but essential stuff on websites.

In a matter of hours, I had this site nearly complete. We use Planning Center for our church management software, so soon we will be integrating our web forms with that. We may also switch over to Tithe.ly so we can have giving native to the site. For now, we link to Planning Center’s giving form.

Let’s talk about design. I love how clean this website looks. I’m still going to tweak imagery and colors, but I feel like it’s a great start. In desktop mode, the landing page looks like this. You have the big headline, a dominate card on top which we use for our Plan a Visit call to action, and then the other cards below. Here’s what it looks like on mobile. You have the logo and navigation hamburger on top, but the dominant feature is the cards.

Here is one feature I’d love to see added to Nucleus. I wish in mobile view it would retain the same hero banner layout with a headline and call to action button for the plan a visit card. Then you would scroll down a little bit to see and swipe through the cards. But it’s almost like that would require a fundamentally different user experience. It’s as if they designed the mobile version of Nucleus to have more in common with the swiping of Snapchat instead of the scrolling of Instagram and Facebook. It is the only aspect of Nucleus that I wish could be different, but in the end, I could be wrong when it comes to mobile user experience. It could be another example of their team knowing what's best for user experience and I need to accept it.

The best way to experience this website is to check it out for yourself. I’ve included a link below. Try it both on mobile and desktop.

In the end, I’m delighted with Nucleus and how it accomplishes everything we need in a church website. Soon we will be shutting down the Squarespace site and remapping the domain over to the Nucleus site. This platform is still in its infancy, but already it is crushing it. Brady and his team are continuously updating it with new features, and it’s only going to become better over time.

My personal opinion and review

In my opinion, I’ll come right out and say it; Nucleus is the best website builder for most churches. Wordpress, Squarespace, and Wix are fantastic tools. I use Squarespace for all of my non-church websites. But the problem with those platforms is that despite their user-friendliness, they are easy to screw up. Nucleus’ template may seem restrictive to many, but I think it’s doing the majority of churches a favor by removing the guessing game out of web design. It is way more difficult to mess up a church website on Nucleus than it is on any other website builder.

Does Nucleus have all the features of a Wordpress, Squarespace, or Wix website? No, but it has all of the essential elements that a church website needs. I’ve seen it time and time again where church websites are just too complicated. Designers implement novelty features or design at the expense of effective user experience. The goal of your site shouldn’t be to wow the user with fancy features. It merely needs to provide them with accurate information in the shortest amount of time possible and call them to take action. That’s all your website needs to accomplish. Nucleus does just that.

Let’s talk about the price

A lot of folks are hesitant about the price of Nucleus because it’s considerably more than other subscription website builders. Look, I understand churches are on tight budgets, but if you genuinely care about growing your church and reaching people in a digital age, you must be willing to invest into software services like a website. In the grander scheme of things, $79 a month is nothing for a tool as valuable as your church website. It’s the first touch point nearly everyone who considers visiting your church, and it’s a significant resource for your existing members.

If $79 a month or even $200/mo is too expensive to invest into something as important as your website, then your church probably has some issues with prioritizing its budget. I know this may sound a bit harsh, but pricing is the biggest complaint I’ve heard about Nucleus, and I know that’s what is holding a lot of you back from giving it a try.

One last thought on the price. I was recently listening to one of Craig Groeschel's leadership podcasts, and he talks about how great leader does not spend money, they invest money. Anything you buy for your church needs to be viewed as an investment, and that includes your website builder. You put money into it now knowing that it will bring you return in the long run.

If your website helps bring one new family to your church and they become dedicated members who tithe. Assuming they make the average household income and they tithe 10%, they will be giving your church $7,000 in annual revenue. The most expensive version of Nucleus costs $2,400 a year. The math makes it a no-brainer. What if your website is what gets 5, 10, or 20 new families in the door for the first time?

That’s how you have to think about this type of expense. Your website is the first impression the majority of potential new visitors will have. If they convert into giving members of your church, then the investment more than worth it. Okay, my rant about church finances is over.

I’m excited to see Nucleus continue to improve over time. I’ll make another article a few months down the road to report our experience having the website live for a few months. I still need to integrate it with Planning Center, Mailchimp, and Giving, so I’ll probably dive into those integrations in that article.

Go to nucleus.church to check out the website builder for yourself. Before signing up, make sure you read the blog posts Brady wrote. It’s a ton of high-quality free content to help you better understand the importance and role of your church website. Once you know even a small amount of web design best practices, you’ll see why Nucleus is a great and arguably the best option for churches.

Finally, I was not paid to write this article. I don’t have an affiliate link for this website builder. I am sick and tired of churches having lousy websites. Nucleus will solve this problem for a lot of you.

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