Many thanks to Daška Hatton for allowing us to evaluate her site publicly. Both Robert Rickover and I hope this will be helpful not only to Daška, but to other teachers as well, and to that end we will be completely (maybe quite bluntly) 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).
As a note, since I started working on this assessment, Daška changed the design on the site, so some of my comments will refer and compare the new design with the old. There were hardly any changes to the content.
And as yet a further note, within about two weeks of publishing this assessment (March 2013) Daška arranged for me to do a complete website redesign, so you’ll notice it now looks completely different from the above screen shot if you click on the link to her site. Please see the Update at the bottom of this page to learn more.
The location is prominently displayed on the home and welcome pages, as well as on the contact page. In her previous design the location was prominent in the header on each page, which for me is slightly preferable. Either way, it’s easy to find where Daška conducts her practice.
Robert: I disagree a little here. Yes, her location is clearly located, but ONLY if you can get past the huge hands image which totally took up my attention – so much so that I didn’t notice her location or even the relatively tiny array of link across the top. I feel the sheer size of the hands image drowns out the actual information on all of the pages – and sometimes makes that information very hard to read.
Imogen: You make a good point, Robert – but more about the design later!
2. Contact Information
Daška has a Contact page, which is easy to find, with a Contact form to send her an email as well as her two locations and phone numbers. The contact button is easy to find in the usual place as the last in the row of page links. The form works properly and Daška promptly replied to the email I sent.
Daška does a pretty good job using language that does not include Alexander Technique jargon terms. I do feel, though, it is somehow a little disjointed. I think some work could be done to help it flow better and to help it resonate more clearly with her potential clients. More details on the bio page would be helpful. Daška states that she has been “passionate about exploring the mind/body link since my first encounter with the Alexander Technique…” – more about that would be interesting and compelling. What was her reason for exploring AT? What benefits did she personally experience? The same for Craniosacral therapy….
Robert: I agree. In general the written material is fairly sparse (even when it takes up loads of space!) and I seriously doubt that most website visitors today would be drawn to either the AT or CS from reading her pages. For example, the huge hands may mean a lot to someone familiar with the AT or CS, but a lot of visitors would be totally confused and leave. (You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!) I think Daška really needs to step back and put herself in the place of someone who knows nothing about these processes – supplemented by showing her site to some non-AT or CS people and getting their reactions.
The only photo on the new site is the image of two hands which dominates the background of every page. While the site is certainly eye-catching with its new design, I do miss having images that actually help me know something about Daška and her practice (both Alexander and Craniosacral Therapy). In the previous design there was a photo of Daška herself on the bio page, but this is now gone, which is a shame. People want to see who the practitioner is. I think Daška should reinstate at least a picture of herself and preferably a few others too. This would likely mean a change in the background for her site (more about this later).
Robert: Yes the hands are eye-catching – way too much so in my view. I think they almost totally obscure the message.
5. Overall Simplicity
While the format of Daška’s site is simple, the new design does a couple of things which unfortunately are rather unhelpful.
First, the simplicity of the way the site functions is spoilt somewhat by the fact that Daška has both a home page and a welcome page! Home pages are welcome pages, so I would ditch the current home page and make the Welcome page the home page.
Second, the new design – where the text rolls over the dominant background image – makes the whole site very difficult to read. I’m afraid I’m not interested in spending any time on this site for that reason. It also makes what is in essence a simple design feel complicated and fussy. It also makes adding other, more useful, photographs a challenge, as they will be competing with the hands image. I strongly suggest Daška choose a different design, preferably with a solid background so the text is easy to read. That is ultimately much more important than how attractive the site is at first glance.
Robert: Agree completely.
The length of the pages is fine. However, the design does make them seem longer than necessary. I noticed with the previous design, which was much more straight forward, they didn’t seem as long (and I could read the text easily!).
7. Ease of Navigation
It is easy to navigate from page to page.
8. Key Words and Phrases
The words “Alexander Technique” and “Craniosacral Therapy” are liberally sprinkled throughout Daška’s site. While her location is easy to find on the site, I think it would be useful to get the key words of Islington and Notting Hill in more places – especially into the header. When I searched “Alexander Technique Islington” or “Alexander Technique Notting Hill” Daška’s site did not show until the second page in the Google rankings. With a bit more emphasis on location I think Daška will be able to get her site to show up in the first page – so important as most people don’t look beyond that.
Daška could also make better use of headings, bold and bullet points to help her points stand out for people visiting the site. As it is the text all blurs into one.
9. Use of Links
Daška includes some useful links at the bottom of the “Links & Testimonials” page. My first thought is that it would be useful to split this page into two distinct pages – “Links” and “Testimonials” – it’s a rather odd pairing. Second, I would like to see links also used in the pages of her website. For instance, on the ” Daška Hatton” page she lists various organizations from which she has a qualification – these would be better as links, if for no other reason than it makes them more credible. I would also find ways to include other links within the text. When you link your key words, it gives them more “visibility” to Google.
Robert: Definitely the “Links” and the “Testimonials” should be separate pages. Also, I think identifying people giving testimonials by their initials and date is very ineffective. My first thought was, sadly, “Are these actual people?” Daška would do well to get permission to use real names, occupations and locations.
10. Something Free
As far as I could see, Daška does not offer anything free on her site. At the very least I would offer a free phone consultation.
There is no audio or visual on Daška’s site. While not essential, including one or the other (or both) would greatly enhance the site. If Daška is not ready to put herself into video or audio, there are plenty of great resources freely available on the web that she could use.
12. Technical Issues
There is no mobile version of Daška’s site. With the amount of internet traffic that comes from mobile devices these days, having a website that has a mobile-friendly version for smart phones is advisable.
Robert: Especially in London!
In addition, while her location, and the phrases “Alexander Technique” and “Craniosacral Therapy” occur in the text of the site, I can’t find them, or any other important information on the site’s source page – the page Google actually “sees.” That is a very serious design flaw. I can’t really tell what platform she’s using for the site and so I can’t say what’s possible with that platform (for example, creating a smart-phone version of the site) but Daška might want to consider Word Press which is free and allows for a very wide variety of choices.
While there is much room for improvement in this site, none of the changes should be too onerous. I would like commend Daška for being open to changing her site and trying out new things. For me the most urgent is to change the design template so the whole site is easier to read. I know Daška was excited to try out this new design, which is certainly striking, and I am very sorry that my recommendation is that it has to go! I look forward to seeing new changes implemented that will help her site be more effective at attracting clients.
Many thanks for taking the time to comment on my website, I truly appreciate you being so honest. What a pity that the new design is such a retrograde step, I had such high hopes for it! It seems I have a lot of work to do.
Update (March 17, 2013)
Daška acted very quickly to address the problems with her site. Within a few days of publishing the assessment (March 1, 2013), she arranged for me to help her re-design and configure her site. Now if you visit www.daskahatton.co.uk you will see a very different site from the one described in the above evaluation. It is now very clear and readable, there is a mobile-friendly version, location and contact information are easy to find (both for visitors and for search engines!), and it has been optimized in general for search engines to index it. She is also making arrangements to do an audio interview about Alexander Technique and Craniosacral Therapy, which will be added to the site soon.
She converted to using WordPress as the content management system for her site, which means it is easy for her to update and make changes to the site herself. We also integrated into the site a blog she had recently started, to which she has already added a wonderful post, “How the Alexander Technique Saved My Life.” Indeed, I believe we will see lots more changes on this site, as Daška enjoys being in control herself.