Ok, I know I keep blabbering on about websites. I will move past this - I promise. But see, this last week or so I've been working on my own studio's website, almost obsessively. It's a slow, painstaking process that's stretching me to the limits of my design brain. But I see my website as the epicentre of my entire brand. Not only is it the sales pitch for new customers, it's the enrolment portal, and our timetable, and our information hub for existing clients. It's the digital hub of my entire studio.
I have previously talked about my strong opinions regarding websites... most specifically regarding "flow", and the importance of controlling and dare I say it "choreographing" the potential customer's journey through the site - not just letting them haphazardly wander through information spread across different pages. But to finally shut me up (for a good while at least) about websites... I wanted to write this checklist. My ultimate checklist for a dance studio website (totally based on my own personal opinion). THINGS A DANCE STUDIO WEBSITE NEEDS:
Clear consistent branding, with studio (exact) colours, logos, fonts etc. This is our best chance to demonstrate our professionalism to our current and future customers. By taking our brand and website design seriously, we invite our audience to take us seriously. Value is subjective, and first impressions count.
Video. Because it's the best possible method of communicating. Videos load pretty quickly these days, and are statistically the preferred medium for content consumption. Different videos on a website might include:
Your unique studio story and mission statement, in an introductory welcome "hype" video.
Teachers being interviewed, or dancing, or both - spliced with B-roll of them teaching.
Short but super-impressive highlight reel of recent performance
Footage of kids at the studio, in class, being brilliant, having fun and looking happy.
A video tour of the studio premises (preferably hosted by one of your cutest young performers).
An animated video summary of your handbook or info pack, so that those who can't be bothered to read 15 long pages of information can have another option.
An overall "storytelling" vibe. The best way to avoid information overload, or sales-pitch-cringe is to focus on telling our story. The "characters" in our studio - our teachers (and why they are brilliant) and our students (and why they love it).
Plenty of great happy photos, that are clear and high quality. Faces read well. And a few nice "dance" shots sprinkled in there help to demonstrate quality to those potential discerning customers who might be looking for that well-pointed foot or that turned out supporting leg.
Pricing (I do believe it's important). I'd argue that most potential customers looking on our website, are pretty much trying to find three key pieces of information. Where is it? When is it? And how much does it cost? The secret though, in my opinion, is about communicating the costs in a careful way, that seems even better value than it is, and focuses on the value - not just the price.
Easy-to-understand schedule of classes. A full timetable is most-likely going to be too overwhelming to most new parents, and runs too much risk of being misinterpreted. What does Junior mean? What's the difference between Intermediate Jazz and Intermediate Ballet? I think the best way to give class times and show your whole catalogue of "available classes" for each age group, is to have links to different pages (or sections of the page) for each of the age groups. This also allows for the compartmentalisation of information for different customer types. The mum of a preschooler should be able to find all the information relevant only to her own child's classes and experience, rather than having to sift through irrelevant information like what teenagers wear to RAD Ballet class.
A "pixel" for optimisation of Facebook advertising. For more information about this... here's the link to a nice helpful article: https://blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-pixel/
A members area (whether behind a login wall, or not) so that information for existing students can be kept separate and not be distracting to the "sales pitch" process for new customers. This area might include an easy reference full timetable, student handbook, voucher forms, term calendar, newsletters, performance dates, online payment portal, downloadable files like music or rehearsal videos etc.
Plenty of calls to action to "close the deal". Every page worth of scrolling, on your main homepage (sales funnel style) should be a call to action. We must decide ahead of time, what is the main ideal action we want people exploring our website to take. Is it to book a free trial? To completely register online? To message us with an enquiry? Then make that the call to action - worded in a variety of ways, with nice looking buttons and links all over the website.
Easy-to-find contact info, with multiple contact methods. I like it at the bottom of every page, in the footer. Embedded message forms are very effective, because the "action" can be taken right there on the screen without having to leave the app or the page.
Great testimonials. These are just so important. Social proofing. People trust them. As ridiculous as that is. Even though they could so easily be made up. They still trust them. And they are a great opportunity to tell us audience exactly what we WANT for them to think. Photos make the testimonials more trustworthy and give them a relatable voice. Video testimonials are even better. Both is ideal.
Photos / videos and mini-bios of teaching staff. People want to know who will be teaching their child. It's one of the main things a parent cares about. And our staff are our biggest asset. We should show them off. It's worth making sure everyone has a great photo that is friendly and wholesome. Bonus points if they all look like they're in a similar style - it's a pet hate of mine when the faculty photos jump between black and white headshots, to random Facebook profile pictures, to full body dance shots. Consistency is professional. With the mini-bios, no one cares to ready the full CV resume of any teacher, but a short paragraph outlining experience, qualifications and career highlights is really great to communicate.
Photos / videos of your studio space. Eliminate the unknown. Parents want to see what it looks like on the inside, so that they can know what to expect. Show it off.
Links to studio social media eg. Instagram etc. (or better still, embedded into the site to show off our beautiful IG photos, and provide "social-proofing" by showing that we Facebook followers.
Location address details and/or a map.
A "voice" and a "personality". A good website should represent the brand of the business, not just visually but through language too. Embrace some quirk, creativity, uniqueness and a sense of humour.
Finally, I have one more tip. Test your website widely. Get friends and family to use it on different computers and phones and tablets. Get them to imagine they are a parent looking for kids' dance classes and have zero idea of how it might work. Is the website easy to navigate? Does it simply and efficiently educate and inform. If someone had never been to a dance class in their life, would they understand exactly how it works and what to expect? Are all questions answered and nervous potential customers put at ease, filled with confidence they're in safe, expert hands, and that they've 100% definitely found the right place to enrol their child.
Remember, once a customer is on our studio website they're already part-way through their journey. They've either clicked a link that they've stumbled across on Facebook from someone's random post. Or they've googled for local dance studios. Or they've received a flyer and typed in the web address. Or they've been sent the link by a friend who is specifically recommending the studio. Whichever it is... they're already looking. Our task is to instill confidence, and provide answers. They might have already looked at some other studios websites. The trick is figuring out how can we best impress, so we can ensure those most discerning potential customers, who are comparing multiple options, inevitably select us.