Over the Summer, one of my big tasks is to overhaul my studio website.
Summer lessons are optional in my studio, and I am lucky to have the freedom to take a lighter load. While reserved most importantly for a bit of R&R, the extra time is also an open window for us to give a little attention to bigger projects like this!
Our websites will often be the first opportunity to make a good impression on prospective students. Also, if you’re anything like me, your studio is continually evolving. Our studio websites should reflect these changes and always feel fresh.
Today I want to share with you three ways to look at your website with a fresh perspective and, in turn, make a positive impression on your studio.
First, I have a confession and a little back history and evolution of my own studio website.
I’m a bit of a hypocrite.
Believe it or not, when I opened my studio in 2011, I did not create a studio website. I felt strongly that a Facebook page was sufficient and still honestly believe it CAN BE enough. We can say a lot through a Facebook page. (See, a hypocrite. 🙂 )
Also, I was so focused on building my new studio that a lot of my energy went into simply learning to be a full-time piano teacher, figuring out who I was as a teacher, and finding my “groove.”
Fast-forward 5 years.
I finally gave in and developed a website.
Part of my motivation was that I had recently learned how to use WordPress.org after volunteering to “figure out” how to move our state’s MTA website to WordPress. (This was the same year I also started THIS website!)
I was feeling more confident.
Here’s my first website.
Vainly, I must admit, I was quite proud of my first effort – perhaps overly so. I’m pretty sure I spent an entire week designing in!
Looking back, however, it feels quite out-of-date and clunky to me. After three years with this site, I realized it was time for an overhaul.
Sorry for the poor coloring in the photo. I didn’t think to take a screenshot of this version before changing it. Luckily, I had recorded a brief video tour for studio families last year and caught a screen-shot from the video. You can’t see the whole home page but you get the idea.
This time it took me two days rather than a week to overhaul the site. I was getting better! LOL. A great improvement, don’t you think?
It’s much cleaner, less cluttered, and more specifically directs prospective students. (If you like this theme and use WordPress.org, it’s called “Minimalist Blogger” by Theme Everest.)
While I liked the theme above, a few minor things bugged me (all of which are irrelevant here). So, this year, I decided to make my life easier and simply use the theme I use and love for this blog, “Shamrock” from Meks.
Now, let’s talk about those three important points I mentioned at the beginning that can help us look with fresh eyes at our websites.
#1 Who is it for?
When it comes to studio websites, there are three ways you can look at them:
- As information for prospective students only.
- As a resource for current students only (but why?).
- A combination of both – info for new students and resources for current students.
Up until now, I’ve always gone with the latter perspective. I would include oodles of information for prospective students, including all my policies, tons of testimonies interspersed throughout the site, links to articles on “finding the right teacher for you,” and more.
I also included many resources for current students, such as the annual studio calendar, articles on practice tips, policies, etc.
Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to pay attention to my studio families and how much they use the website. The answer?
People want information delivered directly to them. My families rely on emails directly from me, text messages, and the monthly newsletter (which they don’t even always read.
How I Handled It
I now look at my studio website as a means of communicating directly to the prospective student only.
This year, I vowed to minimize and simplify. I’m going bare-bones, and I already feel like a weight has lifted.
Besides a link to the monthly newsletter archives, everything on the site focuses on talking directly to the prospective student.
#2 Is it easy to navigate?
When we’re the person writing and designing something, it all makes sense to us and looks good. However, we must look at our websites from the perspective of a new student.
How easy is it to navigate?
Does it feel busy and visually cluttered?
What are you looking for, and could you find the info quickly?
Would YOU really want to read THAT MUCH information and details on the teacher’s philosophy, policies, yadda, yadda, yadda?
Most people are looking for simple answers.
- What are your lessons like?
- Does this studio look like it will be a fit for my student?
- What do I need to do next?
Our attention spans have greatly decreased. We scan and extract. Don’t make them dig.
Looking back at my site from last year, I couldn’t believe how much text I had on every page. If the writer doesn’t even want to read the whole page, why would a prospective client?
How I Handled It
I simplified the menu and worked to condense the wording on every page greatly. Now there are five choices across the top.
Home | Studio Info | Hear My Students Play | Testimonials | Contact
Directs them and tells them what to do
Studio Info > Includes things like…
-Information about you (it’s OK to get a little personal! – you’re human)
-Location of the studio
-Studio calendar or newsletter links if you’re including info for current students
Hear My Students Play
This is a very clear statement. Video recordings are something I never included until now but isn’t that the exact thing that people are asking you to do – teach their kids to play the piano?
I created a Playlist on YouTube of a handful of students playing pieces that were one minute or less. (Remember, short attention spans.) I then simply embedded the playlist into that page.
Word-of-mouth. Hear it straight from those who have experience with you.
How can they get ahold of you?
#3 Does it Look Good on Mobile?
On average, people view web pages just as much, if not more, from mobile devices than from desktop computers.
The layout of your pages may look good on your desktop, but what about when you jump over to a mobile device?
This is something that likely doesn’t even cross most of our minds! In the past, even I have forgotten to double-check how the layout looks when I view it on mobile.
How I Handled It
This year I actually ended up changing several layouts because they didn’t look good when I went from desktop to mobile. Here are a few examples:
- Generally, if you have columns on a desktop web page, it will reorder them into one column on a mobile device. (This may not bother you as long as it looks good.)
- The layout of photos may shift or look off-center.
- This year I experienced a weird text break between two words I had in bold. It shifted the second half of the sentence two rows down on mobile. When I removed the bold font, it looked just fine on mobile.
Strange things like that happen, and unless you know how to code and can tweak some of those things sometimes, it’s easier just to change the layout.
Check out My Website
Feel free to browse around and see what I’ve done. https://Studio88Piano.com
When I do a website overhaul, I take a bit of time to look around the web at many other teachers’ websites and make notes of things I like or don’t like. This will help you gather your thoughts and know what you want your end goal to look like before diving in.
If you have a website, be sure and read this article by Janna Carlson called How to Steal a Website.
In her article, she reminds us that it’s OK to look at the websites for inspiration but it’s not OK to use their exact content (at least without explicitly asking for permission).