As part of a May 21, 2011 Facebook event hosted by the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, I invited music teachers to submit their websites for observation and critique. But most of this feedback is directly applicable to all kinds of artists. I hope these comments provide inspiration and direction for your own site.
The following section focuses on positive aspects of some submitted sites (occasionally with a proposal for making it even better in parenthesis). Each comment addresses a different type of issue. I hope these models and comments provide you with ideas that can be applied to your own site as well. Please visit the addresses to get the full impact.
- Great student photos. This demonstrates that students are valued.
- The blog is wonderful. Definitely student-centric, and appealing to prospectives.
- Home page provides some helpful text. I wonder which parts are most likely to grab someone’s attention. The 6-foot grand?
- The idea about paid trial lessons is interesting. Does that work? How many people take you up on this offer?
- Policies and tuition are clearly stated. No ambiguity here.
- This calendar makes it very clear when lessons are offered.
- The audio recording on the home page is quite effective (and great playing!). This is the only submitted site that included an audio recording. I imagine that offering actual music is an effective sales point for music studios.
- I particularly like the Studio Guide page. Discussing parental expectations as well as student ones is a good idea.
- The fact that you have an HD video camera and digital mic to record is fantastic! It distinguishes you from most studios. In fact, this aspect alone could help you recruit students. (That said, too bad it’s buried in the middle of a page packed to the gills with prose. Most people will never find it. How about a page focusing on “Why Emily Lau’s Piano Studio?”)
- This is one of the few submitted sites with a philosophical statement. A statement of philosophy, priorities, or methodologies is much more compelling than a bio.
- Location is quite obvious when shown in top line of each page.
- At the beginning, the kind of people that might want to study with you are described. This is a good idea. I can see someone reading it and thinking…hmmm, that sounds like me. (The only problem is that it’s all buried in a mammoth sentence with semi-colons. People don’t read lots of text online. Try breaking this up by using bullet points, so people will be more likely to read it.)
- Of all the submitted sites, this was the only one that shared videos. And videos of STUDENTS playing nonetheless. Not only are these kinds of videos helpful for recruitment purposes, they also build pride in the studio. And if you build up the idea of filming one, they can encourage students to practice more.
- I love this list of “Top Ten Reasons to Take Music Lessons.” The last point is “It’s fun.” Since your list is also fun, that claim seems credible.
- Incidentally, a claim I’d love to see on someone’s site is “Top Ten Reasons to Join the _____ Studio.” This way, you’re not only claiming that music lessons are great, but that your studio is special and unique.
- The registration form here is good.
- The “Music Studio Comparison Checklist” is powerful marketing. (Not sure if it’s all true, however. Are there really no other studios where all teachers have advanced degrees of that offer age appropriate experiences for all?)
- Nice clear calendar. The best example I saw from submitted sites. Will clear up a lot of questions
- Powerful testimonials. (Though most are too long. Would it be possible to extract highlights of each?)
- I loved that the first word was WHY…”Why do I teach?” Much more interesting than “What do I teach?”!
- Good prominent quote from Frances Clark: “There is music in every child.”
- Excellent clean design.
- Though a lot of information is included here, it is much easier to read through than many of the other sites. Look at the “policies” page, for instance. Observe the bullet points, short paragraph, bold headers. Easy on the eye.
- Love your graphic of the horn playing woman! (Be careful about including too many photos. It overwhelms. The eye should always know where to focus.)
- The group keyboards page may provide some inspiration for teachers who are considering the possibility of group lessons and classes.
- Check out the Kid’s Links page. Not only helpful for her students, but for teachers as well. Great resource list. (I hope she participates in the Savvy Music Teacher Scavenger Hunt!)
This section is offered without referring to specific sites, since I didn’t want to embarrass anyone, and several trends were noted. These comments are posted in no particular order.
- Clarity. Keep in mind, the average visitor may spend 3-20 seconds on your site before deciding whether to stay or leave. Anything that’s really important should immediately pop out.
- Location. Make the location of your studio easily visible. After some hunting, I couldn’t even determine where a few were located. One displayed a street map, but didn’t indicate what city, state, or country was depicted.
- Amount of information. Many sites include way too much prose. Most people are not willing to read novels online, or even long paragraphs. Ask if every word/section is absolutely crucial.
- Font. Several sites had text that was way too small, hard to read, and fatiguing on the eye. A couple had text that was too large, which looks unprofessional. And some were too cutesy. Use standard fonts at reasonable sizes for best results.
- Teacher content. Just about every site has a bio. And from those bios I learned that most teachers had gone to school and done some impressive things. OK…But what about your teaching. What do you value? What are your priorities? What makes your studio amazing and different?
- Student content. Some sites had no references to students whatsoever. If you’re a teacher, hopefully your first priority is students! Let’s be clear–people should join your studio because it will help them in some way, not because you’re a great teacher. Celebrate your students more than yourself. And just watch. When that happens, students will be more committed and more likely to spread the word. In addition, visitors to your cite will be impressed by how much you care about students. Win-win.
Finally, here are 10 things I didn’t see on many or any of the submitted sites. Imagine the benefits:
- Teaching demonstration video
- Student tools and resources
- Blog featuring articles by students
- Composer of the month
- Any mention of creativity
- Social network for students
- Featured videos of professional performers on the instrument taught
- Links for purchasing music (which can be through an affiliate program)
- Practicing/wellness tips
- Music jokes/puzzles/games, or other fun and engaging activities
This topic is obviously huge. I could write a book on it (oh…actually I have 🙂 ). But hopefully this feedback will get you thinking.
If you do change your website as the result of these suggestions, please let us know by leaving comments below. Doing that will also drive some traffic to your site.