by Imogen Ragone
Many thanks to Adrian Farrell for allowing us to evaluate his site publicly. Both Robert Rickover and I hope this will be helpful not only to Adrian, 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).
Adrian’s location features prominently in the header of his website, which is excellent. There will be no doubt for visitors to his site where to find him! When I searched for “Alexander Technique North London” on Google his site made it to the first page, albeit toward the bottom, which is great when you consider the number teachers in London and the fact that Adrian has only been teaching since last summer!
Robert: I‘m very impressed that Adrian has the location information taken care of so nicely – fairly rare with Alexander Technique websites.
2. Contact Information
Adrian’s contact information also appears prominently on every page at the top of the sidebar, so it’s also visible without any scrolling. On some pages this information is repeated at the bottom of the page too. This is great – there’s no problem finding out how to reach him quickly and easily, and the email link works properly too!
Adrian’s use of language is also very good – there is little or no use of jargon AT terminology, which is pretty much meaningless to anyone who hasn’t studied the Alexander Technique.
Adrian has some nice photos on his site. I’d only caution him on a couple in his gallery which show him with his hands around his students neck. Unfortunately to anyone without AT experience shots like this can look uncomfortably close to strangulation (!), so Adrian might want to remove those two. The alternative is to include a caption with them which explains a little about what is going on. These are not displayed anywhere prominently.
I wonder if it might be useful to add another image to your home page. I like the picture of Adrian and the older man, but it might give a false impression of Adrian’s target market. One of Adrian with his female student would make a nice addition.
Over time it would be useful for Adrian to get more photos of him working with a variety of students.
Robert: I think most of the photos are fine, but I agree the ones of him with his hands on a student’s neck can easily be misinterpreted. Also, there are a couple on his Gallery page where a hand is pretty close to an inappropriate area – and the student’s facial expression seems to show a bit of discomfort. I’d definitely ditch those. I agree with Imogen that one might get a false impression of his target market from just one photo on the homepage. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
I also question the illustration of 2 versions of getting out of a chair. I think it means something to AT folks, but I can imagine the average visitor being puzzled. My suggestion would be to replace it with another nice quote or two.
5. Overall Simplicity
The site has a nice, straight forward layout, and you land directly on the home page which gives some useful information right away. Each page has the same layout with consistent header, sidebar and footer. This all makes for an easy experience for the visitor.
Robert: I like this a lot – very, very easy for the visitor to find out what he/she might be interested in.
All Adrian’s pages are of an appropriate length. Paragraphs of text are of reasonable size so the visitor is not presented with reams of text.
7. Ease of Navigation
It’s very easy to navigate around the pages in Adrian’s site, which has a nice menu bar of page links horizontally underneath the header – a preferred format these days and one that his visitors will be used to.
8. Key Words and Phrases
Adrian makes good use of key words and phrases – from Alexander Technique to back pain. He makes good use of bullet points, bold, headings, etc. which all help visitors to the site easily pick out what they’re looking for.
9. Use of Links
Adrian makes good use of links on his site. There is a Links page with listed resources, and he also nicely integrates links as appropriate within other pages of his site, including a link the BMJ study right from the sidebar. In addition links are easy to recognize as they stand out from the text in a different color and are underlined as is common practice.
10. Something Free
Adrian offers a sixth lesson free if you book five. He also offers free recommendations and links to articles about the Technique.
Adrian has one video (one I include on my own site!) – the one from the BMJ study. If he wants to improve in this area there are many others available, but it would be even better for him to record a video of himself talking about the Technique or demonstrating some work and include that right on the home page. This should be very short – no more than a couple of minutes. Judy Stern, an AT teacher in New York, has done a fabulous video intro to the Technique which is under one minute!
Robert: And/or a short audio interview would be nice – could be slightly longer, but not more than 5 minutes or so.
Imogen: Yes, I agree. Audio is also very popular on the web.
The only thing on this website I would fix as soon as possible is the coding which appears in the page source with a description of the site. This is what Google and other search engines pick up and put with your listing in a search. Currently your description reads “Alexander Technique, East Finchley, Muswell Hill, Highgate, North London. Backache, back pain, neck and shoulder pain and RSI.” This is actually just a repeat of a list of key words (which is also included in the site’s code). It would be better to have your description read something like, “Alexander Technique in East Finchley and Highgate Village in North London with Adrian Farrell. Effective for helping back, neck and shoulder problems, RSI and more…”
Robert: Key words on the source page are useful, but not as important as they once were. But the source page “description” is another matter altogether – that’s what Google puts (at least the first couple of lines) as the description that shows up under the site’s title in search results. The source page description is very, very important. One other point: Adrian’s site is smart-phone compatible which is a particularly important feature in a sophisticated – and very crowded! – Alexander Technique market like London. He’s using Jimdo as his platform which, like WordPress, seems to be easily set up to have a smart phone version. Adrian told me he has “only” got four new students from his website in the half year or so that his site’s been up. I think that is actually pretty impressive given that it takes awhile for Google to “find” new sites and that he’s in a very, very crowded market for AT teachers.
Imogen: I agree! It’s important to remember that as well as students that come directly from your site, there are others who visit it after meeting you, seeing an advertisement or flyer, etc. They are not coming directly from the site, but having the website has backed up and validated the other information.
All in all Adrian has a pretty effective site. Any improvements would really be to take it to the next level! If he wants to do that I suggest looking into creating video or audio content, and into starting a blog (which I think would be easy to do with his content management system). Blogging with any regularity is so useful for gaining more visibility for you and your website. Google loves new content and you’d be supplying it regularly. This would be an effective way to organically improve your ranking in the search engines, and another way for people to find Adrian online.
Robert: That’s a great suggestion Imogen. I have to say that Adrian’s website is the most effective in attracting students of all those we’ve looked at so far. Nice job Adrian!
Thank you so much for the feedback, it’s given me confidence that I’m heading in the right direction.