by Imogen Ragone
First I’d like to thank Jennifer Roig-Francoli for allowing us to evaluate her site publicly. Both Robert Rickover and I hope this will be helpful not only to Jennifer, but to other teachers as well, and to that end we will be completely honest in our assessment. Using my general tips as a broad guide, I will take the points in order (any additional comments from Robert are included in red italics).
Jennifer’s site does include her location in small text in the very opening page of her website (more about that later!), but it does not appear on her home page or any others except the Contact page. Because she does have a contact page, people will be able to click over quite quickly and check, but I’d suggest it would be much more useful for the location to be more prominently displayed. After all she teaches in Cincinnati, so she won’t be of much use to people looking for a teacher in LA. However, she, or her web designer, did a great job coding the site with the location information. She comes up top in a Google search for “Alexander Technique in Cincinnati” and in the information displayed by Google it clearly states where she is located.
Robert: I agree completely. I would add that Jennifer’s photo takes up a lot of space in her site’s premium area – the top of the screen on the landing page – which could be much more effectively used to mention the Alexander Technique, Cincinnati etc. Also, on the smart-phone version of the site, it’s virtually impossible to tell where she is located!
2. Contact Information
Jennifer’s contact information is easy to find on the main (Flash) version of her site (though not quite as easy on the html version as the tab is hidden from view unless you scroll across). (More about the two versions later!) She lists a phone number (which I presume is correct) and has a form to send an email (rather than list her email address), which is fine providing the system works effectively, which it does! My feeling is it would be better to have the contact information listed on every page (either in the sidebar or footer) as well as on the contact page. Make it as easy as possible for people! Better still invite people to get in touch right on the home page.
I think Jennifer does a good job using language that’s pretty much free of Alexander Technique jargon terminology, except where, understandably, she is specifically explaining Alexander Technique principles!
While Jennifer does have a lot of great photos, there are some I question. Included in the slide show on the home page (more about this later!) is a picture of FM Alexander. My advice, if you do want to include a picture of him, is to put it on a page about the history of the Technique, where it would make sense to people. I don’t believe a picture of FM does anything to attract people to your site – it’s only meaningful to people already “in-the-know!” Even on Jennifer’s “The Technique” page I think a modern picture would be better, saving the picture of FM to insert into the history part. I also don’t think the image of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man on the benefits page is relevant or helpful there. Better something that relates directly to the benefits she lists. That would be a great place for Jennifer to put pictures of her working with her very satisfied students!
Robert: I agree with the last sentence, but I’d be very, very careful of what kinds of teaching photos to use. Certainly nothing that suggests strangulation, as so many on other sites do! Images are powerful and can easily be interpreted in ways an Alexander Technique teacher would never think of.
5. Overall Simplicity
Jennifer’s website has an opening page from which you have to click on a link to go to the main site – either the regular version (which uses flash) or the html version. Two points here: (1) Any extra steps people have to go through to get information is unwise on the web. The average attention span is pretty limited. (2) There are likely many people who don’t even know what an html site is, and why they might want to choose it.
The main site uses flash. It is attractive, but somewhat dated now, with it’s very small format. You have to wait a few seconds for it to load, which again is to be avoided on the web, AND flash is not compatible with Apple mobile devices (iPads, iPhones and iPods).
The alternative html site is sized a little better (including the text size) but is similar in format. Unlike the main site, which has the menu of page links in a column down the left hand side, this site has a menu bar across the top. The downside of this is that there are so many items on it, that they cannot be viewed immediately, requiring the visitor to use the scrolling arrows to see more options. As I mentioned before, this includes the contact information, which isn’t immediately apparent to someone visiting the site.
The home page has no text and consists of a slide show. While there’s a lovely array of pictures (I may even forgive the picture of FM in the midst of a slide show!) it means you still need to click on another page to get any sort of basic information. The home page could be improved by having a brief paragraph or so of text introducing the site – what is Balance and Harmony Alexander Technique, who is it for, what is being offered, who is Jennifer etc. – alongside the images. Without that, it is yet another page to click through before I get to information that tells me if the site is of interest or not. I’m afraid it’s just another opportunity to lose people…
It would be much better for Jennifer to have one (non-Flash) website, which enters directly onto the home page of the site.
Robert: Another problem with the Flash version is the portal page that comes up first – yet another barrier between the potential viewer and any real content. For me, there is almost nothing more annoying in a website. If a visitor opts for the Flash version, they have to get through 3 pages before they can find out anything substantive about Jennifer, or the Technique. (It’s a little better with the html version – just 2 unnecessary pages.) Every second of extra time needed to get to actual content dramatically reduces the likelihood of your visitor staying on the site.
Some of the pages are far too long, especially given the format of the website with only one narrow column for text. This doesn’t make for easy reading, or rather easy scanning, which is what most people are doing when they visit a website! I’d suggest simplifying and shortening some pages, and/or splitting some of them up into sub pages. I’d also suggest a much wider, open format for the pages.
7. Ease of Navigation
The main site is easy to navigate once you’re there and is consistent from page to page. The html version less so, because many of the page links are hidden from the menu bar. Again, the narrow columns of text, which require lots of scrolling, don’t make access to information very easy.
8. Key Words and Phrases
Jennifer does have nice lists and bullet points for people to pick out, but again the narrow format of the text column makes most of these invisible and not as useful as they could be. A wide open format would resolve much of this.
Robert: With the html version, there is a huge amount of wasted space to the right of each page below the photos.
9. Use of Links
Jennifer does have a useful page of outbound links, though I do find the format a little odd. Rather than linking the actual item, there is a link beside each one reading “Launch Related Site.” It would be better to have the link be either text relating to the site you are linking to, or the web address, AND have the link show up as either underlined or in a different color (or both) as that is standard practice so people know that it is a link. I also think it would be better to include any additional links directly on the pages where they are mentioned rather than refer them to the links page (again, an extra step for people to take…).
Jennifer does make some free offers to people visiting her site – free lessons for referrals, a free initial telephone consultation and a free reading list.
There is no video or audio on the site, though Jennifer does include links to some. Both would be more useful if embedded right into her site for people to view/hear. It would be even better if she had either a short audio or video of herself. These would help her visitors find out much more about her and what she does very quickly and effectively.
While there is much that could be done for Jennifer’s site to be more effective, I hasten to add that it is by no means useless (and indeed it is better than many). It could, however, be greatly improved mostly by a few tweaks to the content per our suggestions above, and converting to one simpler, wider, more open format, where it’s easier to see the information she presents. I also commend her for having a smart phone version of her site, as this is becoming more and more important as a primary way many people access the Internet.
Robert: I suggest Jennifer ditch the Flash page, for all the reasons Imogen and I mentioned, and convert the html page to a Word Press page, incorporating our specific comments. It’s possible she’s now paying an extra fee each month for the smart-phone version of the site. With Word Press, she could use a free plug-in to make the site smart-phone friendly. Also, with a WordPress page she could easily edit the site’s contents herself, embed audio interview and add all sorts of free features that would be difficult and/or expensive with an html site.
Thank you SO much for doing this assessment – it’s really great! so helpful and interesting! All your suggestions are right on target.
I’ve been wanting to change this website for some time now, but am not finding the time, as I’m swamped with other things. I’m also paying far too much for it. One thing I do like about it, though, is that I was able to do it all myself (and I am very very far from a technological ‘expert’), and I can change any of the content myself at any time. But your comments really make me want to move changing the website (and host) to a higher spot on my list of priorities! By the way, no worries about your “bluntness”. I take none of it personally. When I have more time to pay attention to your comments, I will definitely take them into account.
Many thanks again for doing this, and for your time.