There are two kinds of “bad” studio websites: the ones that are bad because of poor decisions (color scheme, typography, font size, etc.) and the ones that are bad because of indecision.
The first is becoming less common since we have website builders and templates that take a lot of the guesswork out of the visual design process.
But the second is perhaps even more common today, because it’s so easy to jump into website-building without much forethought.
Long before color schemes are selected or pictures are chosen, music teachers who want effective websites have to answer some pretty important questions. Without knowing these answers, teachers end up wasting a lot of time and money developing ineffective websites.
To which I say: “Stop the madness!”
There is a better way! Just consider these three questions before you embark on a website design or redesign process:
1. What is the goal of your website?
I promise I’m not trying to shame anyone with what I’m about to say. You know I only want the best for you and your studio. 😊
If I ask a music studio owner what the goal is for their website, nine times out of ten they’ll say something about getting more students into their studio.
But when I look at their websites, they often tell a different story. The websites say something like “my goal is to attract students…and sell music…and distribute a dissertation…and publicize a concert schedule…and share tips for other teachers…and show how hilarious my cat is…and and and…”
The first step to designing an effective studio website is to clearly define one goal and fully commit to it.
Realize that by committing to one goal for your website (perhaps the goal of getting more students into your studio), you are also not committing to other possible goals (selling your music, sharing teaching tips, etc.).
This doesn’t mean there is no place to mention your other skills. It just means they are secondary. They probably won’t appear on the homepage and maybe not even in the main menu. An “About” page is great for this information, possibly with links to separate websites dedicated to the other projects.
2. Who is your website for?
Imagine being tasked with the job of planning a piano lesson for a new student. The student is 5 years old and is graduating from preschool music classes to private lessons. His mom wants him to have fun.
No big deal, right? You probably do this all the time. This is the kind of student you live for. Your studio is full of music games and toys. This kid is going to have a great first experience in your studio.
Now imagine you have to completely script the lesson and you’re not allowed to deviate from the script after the student arrives. (Awkward, but doable.)
Oh, and it’ll actually be three new students, coming one after another, all for the identical lesson.
The second student is a high school student who is prepping for a college audition. (OK, probably going to have to make some adjustments from the script to work for both students…)
And the last student? He’s a 30-something who is legally blind. (Hmm…this will take some creativity…)
How’s that script holding up?
By this point, it’s probably so generic and unhelpful it doesn’t even sound like a lesson worth teaching. None of the students are going to get anything out of it.
Yet, this is the approach so many music teachers take with the content on their studio websites. Generic and uninspired phrases like “all ages and skill levels” or “all genres and styles” run rampant.
The problem is, by trying to speak to ALL the people who come across our website, we end up speaking to no one. Instead, pick ONE audience. Focus on your ideal students. The ones who make you love your job.
Which of these phrases tells the mom of that 5-year old student that she can stop her teacher search right now because YOU are the ONLY teacher she should consider:
“Lessons for all ages and skill levels” … or … “Game-based learning for Paw Patrol fans.”
Obviously, the second one. It tells her you “get” it. You get her kid. You speak his language. You, if anyone, will be able to get him excited about playing music.
(If you don’t know Paw Patrol and you’re teaching 5-year olds, it’s time to get with the program. 😉)
3. What is the next action visitors should take?
With a clear goal in mind, hopefully it’s not too hard to come up with the next action for visitors to take on your studio website.
Have you ever been to an IKEA? Their store designers are genius and we can learn from them.
They understand that the goal of their stores is to sell as much product is possible. And what’s the best way to do this? By getting us to walk past as much of that product as possible.
They have carefully pre-determined the exact path we will take through the store and made it surprisingly difficult to deviate from that path. Yes, there are hidden shortcuts, but the store designers understand human psychology.
We tend to take the path of least resistance and when a goant arrow on the floor is telling us to go one way, we usually follow it. It’s just easier than having to make a different decision on our own.
We want the next step for our prospective students be just as obvious (though, probably less maze-like).
Once a student is convinced you are the best teacher for them, what is the next step for them to take? Should they sign up for your email list? Register for a sample lesson or audition? Call or text you?
Whatever that next step is, use your homepage to guide them to taking that action.
Eliminate anything that doesn’t lead them there. If they want to know more about you or your qualifications, they’ll have motivation to search deeper on your site for that info, but if they were sold by your homepage, throwing these other options at them will only be a distraction.
So before you spend hours poring over color swatches, font samples, and photos, take a step back to answer these three questions. This exercise will put all those other details into perspective, make your site more effective, and (most importantly) provide a clear path for visitors to become students!