by Robert Rickover
Thank you Clare Maxwell for allowing Imogen and me to publicly assess your website – it takes a certain amount of bravery to do so, especially as we are committed to providing a full and frank evaluation. Hopefully this will prove useful to other Alexander Technique teachers. We are using Imogen’s general website tips as a framework. Additional comments from Imogen are included in green italics.
Clare’s site includes her location, but only indirectly: “Broadway and 26th St,” which I guess if you live there you’d know was in Manhattan. And it is consistent across all her pages. But it would be a lot better to have the phrases “Alexander Technique” and “New York City” and/or “Manhattan” and/or the part of Manhattan in which she teaches, displayed prominently at the top of at least the homepage. Her location is currently easy to miss and is a bit ambiguous. Given the very crowded market for AT teachers in New York City, it is extremely important to make her location much more prominent.
There’s more than enough room at the top because for some reason her site is pushed to the left of the screen and only takes up about 2/3 of the horizontal space. This makes the site look a little unprofessional. This may not be easy to change because she’s using a discontinued, unsupported, web-authoring program, Adobe GoLive (see point 8 below) that has not been updated to accommodate new browser versions.
2. Contact Information
Clare’s phone number is listed below her teaching address across all her pages, as is a Contact button which takes you to a page where her address, phone number and email address is clearly listed. My only quibble is that while her email is hyperlinked (clickable) you can’t tell that just by looking at it. I’d like to see it underlined as she does with links on her Links page.
Imogen: Yes, it’s much better to have links be easily identifiable!
Clare’s use of language to describe the Alexander Technique and the AT teaching process is excellent. I didn’t notice any use of Alexander jargon. She uses a rotating series of quotes at the top of her homepage – the least useful, in my opinion, being one by FM. I love her Marjorie Barstow and John Cleese quotes. I’m not sure why she varies the choice of quotes – I’d just pick one for the homepage and perhaps others for other pages.
Imogen: Initially only one quote appeared for me (the one from Marjory Barstow).However, when I refresh my browser the other ones are revealed. I must admit I don’t see the point in this – who would think to do that? And while it does not matter that only one shows, it does perhaps mean that the website is not functioning quite as it should.
Clare uses almost no photos – a small black and white one of her on the homepage, a portrait of FM and on the “About” (the Technique) page, one of FM teaching a young girl, and another of (I presume Clare) doing a sort of dance movement on the floor. I think it would help her site to have a few more photos perhaps showing her teaching, but I would suggest she be very, very careful what she chooses since people often read things into photos which you don’t intend. Certainly no photos of hands around someone’s neck! I’d drop the photo of FM teaching the girl – some visitors might find it a bit creepy.
Imogen: I completely agree about removing the photograph of FM and the young girl – or certainly I wouldn’t include it on a general introductory page, nor without explanation. While I think having a visually interesting site is important, I think it’s better to have no photos of you working than ones that could in some way be deemed uninviting or inappropriate in some way by visitors with no experience of the Alexander Technique. Some teachers have created very visually appealing sites by using inviting images of their location, images that evoke some idea about the Technique (e.g. balance or poise), or that show people using their bodies very well. I do like Clare’s logo image, which adds some interest and color to the site.
5. Overall Simplicity
Clare’s site laid out in a simple, effective format of the sort most viewers are used to, with one important exception: The “About” button is actually sub-divided into three separate pages but you would have no way of knowing that from looking at the homepage. Even passing your curser over the bottom doesn’t reveal the 3 (important!) categories: Alexander Technique, F. M. Alexander and Clare Maxwell. You have to actually click on the About button and go to the About page to see those 3 categories.
None of the pages seem too long to me. Clare’s paragraphs are short and she breaks up her text nicely with bullet points.
7. Ease of Navigation
The only navigation issue I see is the “About” button issue mentioned is section 5.
Imogen: Yes, I would definitely have the three links to the different “About” pages all be visible from all pages.
8. Key Words and Phrases
Here there is a major flaw in Clare’s site: her source page – the page web browsers actually “see” has only one(!), sort of, keyword: Clare Maxwell.
It would be very, very useful to have phrases like “Alexander Technique,” “New York City,” “Manhattan” as keywords as well as some “description” text. The omission makes the absence of location information at the top of the homepage even more serious. In her text, the phrase “Alexander Technique” does appear quite frequently. It’s possible that her web-authoring program, Adobe GoLive, doesn’t allow for any of this – GoLive is an old program that was discontinued by Adobe 4 years ago, and is no longer supported.
Imogen: I completely agree! I did a Google search for “Alexander Technique New York” and not surprisingly Clare’s site did not show up in the first five pages. However it also didn’t show up in the first six pages of a search for “Alexander Technique Broadway” which I thought more likely as she includes a Broadway address on her site. When I did find her site on Google (by searching for Clare Maxwell Alexander Technique – 7th down the page) the site was listed as “Clare Maxwell and the Alexander Method” (not “Technique”) with no other information at all (I believe this must be because of her outdated authoring program as described by Robert). There is obviously a lot of competition in New York for spots on Google, but I think she could do a lot better in her Google ranking simply by shifting her site to an up-to-date system and making sure her location (New York, New York City, Manhattan, etc. and the address) appear prominently and are coded into the site. I am no expert on this, but I would have thought having a niche (as recommended by Jeremy Chance) might be especially important in a city with many teachers, and this would also help with her online visibility.
9. Use of Links
Clare provides some useful links on her “Links” page and a few on her “Alexander Technique” page. I think it would probably be more effective to have all her links on one page.
Imogen: I don’t completely agree. I think it’s useful to have certain links be naturally part of the relevant page (e.g. if you refer to the BMJ Study, link to it right there and then). However, I do think Clare could usefully include the links from the bottom of her Alexander Technique page on her Resources page too. I also think the format of the links on her Resources page could be improved. In fact, I believe having key words be linked to relevant content may be a real boost to your online visibility (SEO). Having the link read “LINK” looks also odd and slightly unprofessional too.
Robert: I don’t disagree – there’s no reason not to have some links on 2 or more separate pages – as long as they’re all also on the Links page.
10. Something Free!
Clare includes some pieces she’s written, including a floor-work “Self Lesson.”
There is no audio or video on Clare’s site. Just as a few more photos would make the site more attractive, she could perhaps embed one of the many excellent short AT You Tube videos like the short introduction by Marjorie Barstow or the BMJ study video. It would also be useful for Clare to include an audio interview or video about herself.
One final point: There is no mobile version of Clare’s site and this is a major drawback. A high, and rapidly growing, portion of all web searches are now done with hand-held devices and a “regular” website does not show up well. Clare’s site (incorporating our suggestions, of course), would be quite easy to convert to a modified Word Press site (one which looks pretty much like a regular site, not a blog). Then, with a free plug-in, she would also have a smart-phone friendly version. She would also be able to easily edit content herself and would have access to a host of other free features. A Word Press site would also allow her to put her blog (which seems to be in an early stage of development) right on her site, enabling her to get rid of the generic Word Press blog page she’s using now.
Imogen: I agree with Robert. I would especially suggest Clare include her blog within her website when she upgrades, and using WordPress would be ideal. Search engines love new content, and if you blog somewhat regularly that also means you are regularly adding new content, more keywords, etc. to your site. This would be another way for Clare to boost her online visibility. Each time she creates a new blog she should post it on Facebook, Twitter, etc., all adding to the link backs to her own website each time the content is shared.
Thanks so much Robert and Imogen. I knew that I need to update my whole site but I had no idea what some of the problems really were, especially the software being used. Itʻs clear that the problem of not coming up higher in a Google search cannot be solved by paying Google more money! Iʻve got work to do!