When it comes to your martial arts school, your website is your digital home for everything that you do online. It is therefore important that your website gives the best impression of you and your school to prospective and current students. There are few things that you can do to help make sure that anyone visiting your website receives the best possible experience. The better their experience, the less frustrated your visitors will be visitors and potential leads will be. Poor experiences leave a bitter taste and devalue your brand (yes, your school is a brand).
I'm going to break down some key concepts to creating a good website for your martial arts school. But there are many more factors which will produce a good clean user experience and a good converting website. As I say often, ‘you have to walk before you can run’. Just as with your martial arts, if you don't have a solid grasp of your basics you cannot learn advanced techniques and forms. Regardless of the tech stack you are using on your website, whether it be a WordPress site, a static site generator, or you don’t know (because your web developer does this for you), these principles will still apply. If you want to go into specifics of how you do something on your platform, leave a comment below and I'll help you get started.
Are you prepared for the future?
I like data. Data helps me critically analyze and make better decisions based on actual numbers rather than thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings are important facts in making some decisions — and in fact, when it comes to your students, it's the leading cause of why they make that decision to become a student of yours — but when it comes to business it is often wise to lead with your head or not your heart.
So here are some statistics for you: 52.2% of all global web traffic in 2018 was generated through a mobile device.
This doesn't take into account the full picture, though. This shows the worldwide traffic of mobile versus desktop use and does not take into account the fact of many of these people in this traffic are doing so for work, which they almost certainly use a desktop computer for.
Another statistic: From 2012 to 2018 the total daily amount of time spent on a mobile device in the US by adults jumped from 88 to 203 minutes a day. Last one…
The percentage of people in the US that own a desktop/laptop is around 75% and has been consistently for the last 10 years (give or take a few percentage points). Compare that to the 98% of adults in the US that own a cellphone with internet connectivity.
What these stats show is that not only do people browse more on their mobile devices more than they doing on a traditional desktop but that there are far more mobile device owners that desktop computer owners in the US population. This is a trend that's been increasing yearly and will continue to do so.
Some homework for you (when you’ve finished reading this article, of course.) Open up your analytics on your website if you have them, if not get some installed! Check your visitors so you can see how many people visit your site, but crucially, what devices they used to visit your site. In fact, not only would tell you which devices were used (mobile, desktop, etc) to view your site, but you’ll also be able to filter that down into which browsers they used, too. This information extremely powerful. If your school is in an affluent area, you are more likely to encounter people that have iPhones, or higher-end mobile devices. You may find the opposite true, too, and they will also likely be Android users with lower-end or cheaper devices. Cheaper doesn't always mean worse, but it makes a difference. Being able to determine the demographics of your local area and the people you are serving will help you determine who you are tailoring your website for.
It should go without saying, that your website should be built not only to be mobile-friendly but ideally, with to be mobile-first, there is a difference. You may also have heard ‘responsive design’, which essentially means the same thing as mobile-friendly. To put it simply, when your website is viewed on different sized screens the contents of the website and the layout will automatically adjust to suit the screen in which it is being viewed. If you are using WordPress, as most of you will be, there are many themes that are mobile-friendly and responsive ‘out of the box.’ However, just as with everything else in life, you get what you pay for. Free themes can be great but they all free for a reason, they tend to have less functionality and have had less time and effort put into the development of the mobile-friendly and responsive version of the website. I always encourage when practically and financially possible to buy a premium theme from a trusted WordPress theme company or designer. These are all always worth money.
The 2 second rule
Now your website is optimized to be viewed on any device it is important that we considered the speed of your website. I know you're not trying to serve Facebook, Instagram, CNN, or any other large website for that matter. Speed still matters, even just serving a small website for a local martial arts school. Many studies have shown that most people will leave a website if it does not load within 2 seconds. Other studies show that for every 100 milliseconds gained in load time on e-commerce websites that shopping cart competition increases. Maybe your website sells some apparel or other items? If you want people to avoid ‘bouncing’ from your website, and not even getting to view the first page, you need to ensure your load time is below 2 seconds.
One way to test this is by opening an incognito window or private
browsing window in your browser on a computer. Go to your website and
time the load time. If you want something even more accurate, in your
incognito window you can open the developer tools. These are built into
all browsers and aren’t as scary as they might first appear. In chrome,
Ctrl + Shift + I to open them on a Windows, and on a Mac it’s
Command + Option + I. (If you use a different browser, leave a comment
below and I’ll let you know the keyboard shortcut.)
Navigate to the ‘Network’ tab and censure the disable cache box it ticked checked. Reload your website by pressing Shift + F5. By using Shift + F5, it does a ‘hard reload’ and will not use any preloaded images, cookies, or files that may be on your computer which all websites utilize for performance. At the bottom of the network tab, it will tell you the time it took to load as well as the size of the data that transferred from your website. Obviously, the bigger your website the longer it takes to load. Make sure you are not loading unnecessarily images and other content before it is needed. It is also very important than your images are resized to be the correct size, and you're not uploading high-resolution images and then just using them in a small thumb, as the high-resolution image will still be used and downloaded, thus slowing down the time it takes your website to load. If you're slightly more comfortable with technology there are some more advanced techniques you can use to have the speed of your website addressed, such as lazy load in your images and reduce HTTP requests (if that doesn't mean anything to you, don't worry, it's just for advice practitioners and developers). Using tools such as caching plugins, and/or a content delivery network (CDN) are also things anyone, regardless of skill level, can and should consider. These are can be easily set up with little time and money investment. But these will work best when your fundamentals are in order first.
Are you relevant?
You can have the fastest, most responsive website in the world, but if the content is irrelevant or of poor quality than it really doesn't matter. You do not need to have a blog or produce works of Shakespeare on your website for it to be a good website. It is absolutely okay if your website is just a digital business card.
There is a marketing saying which goes: “Sell solutions, not features.” Most of your website leads are not looking to train in martial arts. They have a problem that needs to be solved, and martial arts is the feature. You need to sell them the solution to their problem. It’s the main reason why we buy the things we buy and make the decisions we do, is because we have a problem that needs to be solved. Think of the last thing you bought. Maybe it was a salad for your lunch? Cool, did you buy it because you wanted desperately to eat a salad? No, of course not! You bought it because you have a problem. You were hungry and you are trying to watch your weight because your doctor keeps telling you off at your physicals. A salad solved these problems. Whatever you bought last, think about the problem that it solved.
Your website could be your first impression with a student and you need to make sure that there is no ambiguity in the services you offer and the problems you solve. If you focus on pure practicality and self-defense that needs to be explicit. If you have a traditional martial arts school and you embrace tradition and culture, do not emphasize the lethal aspects martial arts can teach. There is no right answer, just know what you do and how you do it. Everyone gets into martial arts for different reasons. You know this. Some want to lose weight and get fit. Some want to join martial arts this self-defense. Someone to fight in a cage. Some people have trained in other styles before and want to be around other people that enjoy the things that enjoy. Regardless of the reason why they want to join martial arts it is important for your school that you attract the right students. Attracting the wrong students will lead to poor retention, toxic culture, and will damage your reputation in a local martial arts community. Attracting the right students for your school and what you teach is imperative.
Everything on your website from the images you use to the copy (the words on the page), matter.
Communicating the problem you solve to your prospects is the best way to accurately project leads and conversions. Take a website that has 100 visitors a month, with 30 leads, that convert 20 of the leads to new students. That site is better than a website that has 1000 visitors a day, has 100 leads a day, which converts 5-10. Now of course disconnect between the conversion from leads to students could lie in other places. But often if visitor knows ahead of time what will be expected from them, what problem your school solves, and what kind of people they are going to train with, then they are more likely to follow through and convert. Words matter. Images and representation matter.
Simple and quick fixes
Now for some low hanging fruit. Your website should have fully functional contact forms that I've been tested on a regular basis. It should also have phone numbers, links to social media accounts, and your address, should anyone want to visit you in person. Any offers you have such an introductory lesson, or class, displayed front and center alongside any other promotions you are running. However, do not fill the screen with pop-ups and panels that cover the content. These may look ‘fine’ and unobtrusive on a desktop computer, but on a mobile device they cover the whole screen and make the contents of your website unviewable. This does not leave and for good user experience and impression of your school.
Choosing a side…
There are some discussions and contention on weather posting lesson schedules on your website and tuition prices is a good idea or not. I have no data to suggest that either solution is best. Just in case you're not familiar here are the arguments for and against each, and I will leave it up to you to make an informed practical decision based on your location and your personal experience thus far. But if you want to be sure, testing within a period of a few months and tracking your leads will help. Just to keep to similar months where activities are usually comparable and not in quite periods when that could have just when the natural cadence influences the results.
There are people that will not contact you if they don't have all the information present (prices of tuition and class schedules.) They may not be sure if martial arts is for them, and by now providing all the information they use that as an excuse to not follow through and get in touch, which is when you can show them the benefits training.
There are people that are sure they want to start (or continue) in martial arts. And because your website is clear and they know what they should expect, it shows them current students in the school so they know what kind of people attend classes (Are all the images of young men? What if the prospective lead is a woman? Will they get in touch?) These people are ready and primed to get in touch with you, and it is then up to you to put them off martial arts rather than get them into martial arts.
Then there are the people in between, that have a busy schedule and they want to be sure your schedule fits them, or maybe they are looking at other schools around you to compare schedules, and see you don’t have one, so choose another school over you because they knew they could attend their classes. Not everyone is comfortable with asking or even talking to people.
The same goes for price as above. However, people who always look for the cheapest price value the price more than the value your instruction, knowledge, and the benefits that come with training. These students are not likely to be long-lasting students.
When it comes to deciding if you should put tuition and scheduled on your website, you may just have to choose the one that feels fits the best of your current students. You can always change it later. Don’t let decisions like this put you off changing your website, or creating your first website. If you let it stop you from acting, then you become just like the prospective lead that didn't take action earlier because they wanted a little bit more info, and needed a little nudge. Consider this me giving you a nudge. Always remember the done is better than perfect.
I’ve given you a lot of information and I know it can be overwhelming, especially if you are building your first website. The beauty of the internet is it's ever-changing. Your website will change and evolve over time, and it will get better as you get better. Even if you have a great website that works and converts right now, still assess it for ways you could improve your fundamentals periodically. Having a website that never changes is actually bad for SEO (search engine optimization.) Google search algorithms like sites that update and evolve over time. It doesn't mean you have to tinker constantly with your site, but don't let your website stay stale. One day you may find that your website traffic has been graduate going down and your leads have been reduced. And maybe easy to blame an external factor because your website ‘always used to work’ well for you, but the opposite is true.
I will not go into SEO today, as it’s a long, complicated, and often confusing, topic. Even for people that are technical. Way too much importance is put on SEO before content speed and everything else we have discussed today. Fundamentals always stay that. Websites always need work on the fundamentals, just like your martial arts training.
Although my aim of this article was to teach you about best practices for your martial arts website, just because you can it doesn't always mean you should. And this is not an advert for my own web development business but think of this as a business lesson. I simply cannot do a spinning tornado kick. So I don't. Knowing your strengths and knowing your weaknesses within business is critical to running a successful business. Of course you will not know if you can do something until you try, so please do try. But if you find yourself stuck or have in trouble then hire a professional. The money spent will be returned and will continue to save you money in the long run, trust me.
If you have any comments or questions on anything I’ve talked about in the article, would like me to cover something in more depth, or have any technical questions, please do leave a comment below. I personally respond to all of them. And if commenting isn’t your thing, then there’s always email or social media.
References / Further Reading:
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