Many people’s first impression of your dance business will come from your website, long before they’ve come in your door or met you. Here’s how hiring an outside design pro can make that experience as high-quality as your dance instruction.
When you visit the website for Becca Moore and Dani Rosenberg’s studio, Rhythm Dance Center, the homepage—decked out in bright, inviting colors and with parallax scrolling—immediately offers visitors the chance to register, view current schedules and contact the studio. That’s not an accident. Moore and Rosenberg’s Marietta, GA–based studio has been in operation for 27 years, and with 1,100 students currently enrolled, they know how important a studio’s website is to its success.
“Your website is a huge part of your business,” says Moore. It has to reflect your brand, and “everything must always be up-to-date—that’s where people register, where they find out about your program and your teachers.” She and Rosenberg haven’t always been at the forefront of web design, however. Moore reports that her first foray into having a studio website designed included ideas that weren’t exactly web-friendly. “I wanted an Adobe Flash intro, I wanted things that floated around—I wanted all the things that slow your site down, basically,” she says.
That’s where a website designer comes in. Like all of Moore and Rosenberg’s relationships with outside professionals, their relationship with their website designer—the husband of a former student—is modeled on trust and understanding. “His job is to know more than I know about website design. But you also find someone who doesn’t make you feel like an idiot,” Moore says simply. “I’m never afraid to e-mail him with questions.”
The Added Value of a Professional Web Designer
Rosenberg and Moore’s designer completed a redesign of their studio website two years ago, which cost them $10,000. “We paid a lot for our site, but once we paid that amount, it’s just been maintenance,” says Moore. “Our designer doesn’t charge us anything to answer our questions.” Because they’ve been working with this designer for a decade, there’s an understanding that his skills will be put to good use (and for which he’ll earn compensation) again, once the next website overhaul happens—so he’s more than willing to be “on call” between RDC design revamps. Here are three things a professional website designer can bring to your studio’s home on the internet.
Customers Will Love Your Website
Moore remembers attending a business seminar led by another studio owner, Misty Lown, in which Moore had to pull up her studio’s website on her phone. “Misty said, ‘If you can’t get to your class offerings in three seconds, forget about it,’” says Moore. “If millennial moms can’t find the classes immediately, they’re going to close the browser and start over. The user experience of someone who comes to our website is a constant thing in our heads: How can this be better? How can this be simpler?” As Rosenberg says, “It has to be clear and easy to navigate.”
Moore has always been more focused on the aesthetics of the studio’s website, rather than usability, so she values the practicality around the user’s experience that her designer brings to the table. “I know I need to keep the customer’s experience in mind,” she says. Thanks to him, their site has a functional, easy-to-navigate design and looks great across all platforms (personal computer, phone, tablet). Visitors can register for classes (or log in to their personal accounts, if they’re already a part of RDC), check out current and future schedules, access all four of RDC’s social-media accounts and e-mail or call the studio, all from the landing page. And even though Moore knows what she wants the website to look like, “I want our designer’s opinion, too, and I want him to be really honest with me so that I know our site looks good,” says Moore.
Site Updates Will Be Easy
In the early days of the studio’s website, Moore would use her minor coding skills to update the site manually. Today, Moore and Rosenberg have four staff members assigned to updating it. “We have a meeting every Monday morning with our key staff,” says Moore, “and we talk about website updates. It’s not fun for anyone when I go down a rabbit hole on a Sunday morning and find things we need to fix.” One of those staffers speaks with their website designer (who lives in a different state) often to discuss any changes and updates they want to make to the site.
Your Vision Will Come to Life
Moore admits that she has opinions about how the studio’s website appears and functions, and she values a designer who will take her opinions into account. She also depends on her designer to make complicated graphics, plug-ins and customizable forms like online registration a cinch for her staff to implement and maintain.
The Bottom Line
Moore and Rosenberg realize that a $10,000 price tag might not be in every studio owner’s budget, and they encourage owners who are more tech-savvy to use Squarespace or other website template services. “I really think you can do a website very affordably on your own. It’s just not how I want to spend my time, learning website design,” says Moore. “For younger new studio owners, that’s second nature. Dani and I are a different generation. I just want to tell my designer what pictures I want on my website.”
Rachel Rizzuto reports on studio business for Dance Teacher and is a second-year MFA student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.