I asked a group of martial artists what they wanted to know about a gym to make an informed decision about visiting/joining. There are a lot of basic things people want to be able to easily find: how to find you, how to contact you, what you train, cost (yes, people want this to be public and online). There was also a slew of things people wanted to know that might not be so common: if there is a women’s only class, are there other female students, what other facilities/programs does the gym have (weights, nutrition, etc.), how many senior students do you have, do you teach weapons (and which ones), what is a typical class like, how does the rest of the [your marital art here] community view you, and how often you clean your mats.
Here are a few tips to improve your gym’s website based on detailed feedback:
You need to lay out your site so that a few things are immediately obvious:
- Styles taught
If your computer-illiterate aunt can’t immediately tell you where she’d click to figure out where your gym is at your layout is wrong. The same goes for your schedule, “about us”, and anything else you REALLY want someone to see. If your gym has factors that set it apart from other area gyms that might bring people in (no contracts, best ranked competition team, a long history) make a page related to that aspect and make it obvious. Obvious titles help with this too. “Contact us” might have location information as well, but “Location & Contact” definitely has it. “About us” could have anything. “About” with drop-down selections for “About our gym”, “About BJJ”, and “About the instructors” tells you exactly what kind of information is on each sub-page, even if it’s really one page with anchors.
Qualifications of the Instructor
People want an idea of who’s going to be teaching them. Write a short bio. The things people wanted to know most were: rank, certifications, competition history, if you still train under someone, lineage and association (when applicable), what you enjoy about teaching, and how long you’ve been teaching. Include a recent photo so that someone can recognize you if they come into the gym.
If there are multiple instructors or even senior students consider having them write up similar bios to share. Just make sure you order the bios in a way that makes sense. Generally they should be ordered by rank or how often the person will be teaching/helping. As below, use sections when appropriate.
You should provide a simple to understand schedule which outlines all the martial arts you teach. If Thursdays are striking which will alternate between Zach teaching TKD and Andrew teaching karate people will want to know that.
Since you should have an area of the site that discusses the styles you offer and what different classes will be like what I find easiest to navigate is a table with links to those descriptions. I can see that No-gi is from 18:00-20:00 and then I can click the link to get information about what “no-gi” means, who’s teaching it, any pre-reqs, what I should expect out of a class, and what will be expected out of me. Consider doing this for all levels of class too. If there’s an invite-only advanced class I might want to know what it’s like since I could be a student of six years who’s changing gyms and thinks yours might be a new home.
Making the website easy to use
- Provide consistent navigation. There should be a bar on the top or left that allows me to navigate to different areas and it should be obvious how to. Having consistent layouts for all of your pages with a shared header and navigation bar makes your site look a lot better and makes it much easier to use.
- People read left-to-right, top-to-bottom. This is a big deal and you should lay your content out accordingly. There’s no easy formula to say this is the upper-left info and this is the lower-right, but think of the user as following a workflow and navigating to all of the information you provide on your site, what would make the most sense for them to see first, second, etc.?
- Break pages up logically. If I have to scroll for more than a screen of text I’m not going to read it all. There’s too much information. If you find yourself with three pages worth of material on a single page, re-evaluate it for what is necessary information and what can go on its own page or section. Breaking information up by sections (a la this post) is a great way to make a wall of text seem less intimidating if you want a lot of information on a single page or have too many pages for convenient navigation. If you have sections, consider providing links to anchors which a user can use to quickly jump to a section they’re looking for.
- Write at an eighth grade reading level. There’s no excuse for using fancy talk unless you’re writing a blog. I want information. I want it to be simple to understand. I only want what’s relevant. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but experience says I do.
- If you’re going to assume background knowledge, link out to it, or provide it yourself. I might be looking for a BJJ gym because I’m a huge MMA fan or someone moving to the area with a purple belt. I also could be a mom who’s looking for a good first martial art for her kid who’s got way too much Renergy to burn and have no idea how jiu-jitsu is different from karate*.
Those are my tips. Feedback appreciated if you have questions or specific suggestions. I’m not a UI designer – these are just some tips from my experience using websites and doing some mobile app design.
* – Seriously. If I had a dollar for everyone who asked if I “judo chop[ed] people” I’d still want to kill them all. People are going to see the gi and assume a world of things, give them background or a link to Wikipedia.