Mobile-friendly websites are important for lindy hop (durh)

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Rolling out the mobile-friendly update is an interesting thing: I’m particularly interested in the way it affects dance event sites (of course).

Dancers use dance sites with mobile devices (particularly during a big dance event weekend), and most people first come to lindy hop through a google search. So mobile-friendly websites with good googles are super important – essential – to a dance business. Yet most dance websites are built by inexperienced/non-pro designers/code monkeys, and aren’t terribly mobile friendly.

This is partly to do with budgets (we work on very tight margins), but more to do with inexperience. Spending money on your website is a very good investment, but many dancers can’t bring themselves to shell out that sort of money, and if they do, they don’t know how to find or judge a good web designer.

We have really really shitty interwebs in Australia, so a lean, mean, mobile website is super important for a dance business.

(image just stolen from that google blog article)

4 Replies to “Mobile-friendly websites are important for lindy hop (durh)”

  1. As someone who runs a website for a swing dance school and has Google Analytics installed, I can confidently say a good portion of our user base views the website via mobile devices.

    Analyzing user behavior often they are checking class times and venue locations the day of classes. So if you have a poorly designed website for mobile devices, your students might be pissed because it is hard for them to figure out where and when they should show up for class.

    Out of curiosity to address the problems you listed Sam what would be the best information to help people approach the issue of web development for Swing Dance? I work full time as a web developer professionally so i’ll admit I am a tad clueless to the problems other organizations face in that department.

  2. Totes. Finding class information should be really easy to find. And we just have to go mobile first. But it’s also worth making laptop and desktop versions that look lush on bigger screens.

    “What would be the best information to help people approach the issue of web development for Swing Dance?”

    1. That’s a tricky one. I think that people who have dance businesses should pay a professional and experienced web designer to develop a site and package for them. Right from the start, invest the money there. Not just a friend or friend of a friend: someone with skills and experience.

    2. So they really need a way to find and assess the skills and experience of design professionals. It’s too easy to find and get stuck with shitty designers.

    3. They should also put a lot of work into planning out how their website integrates with their broader PR strategy. eg how do they use facebook, their site, emailed newsletters, paper flyers, word of mouth, in-person demos and so on in combination. One alone is not too important; in combination they are powerful.

    4. In practical terms, a dance website should reflect its use. And the internal site architecture (the relationship between pages) should be logical and powerful. And navigation is king.
    What is the site for? A dance school? A weekend event? A regular party? If a business includes all these elements, then there should be one main business site, and all the different elements be child pages.
    Stand-alone sites should link directly from the main site, and with a page for each project on the main site.
    So I have http://swingdancesydney.com/index.html, but then I have pages for our two regular parties (Harlem and Swinging At The PBC). Because Harlem is a collaborative project, it has a stand-alone, ‘neutral’ site (http://harlem.org.au/) which is thoroughly branded with our logos and links to our business sites. But it also has a section on the party page of the main site: http://swingdancesydney.com/parties.html#harlem
    S.A.T.PBC is less frequent, and solidly tied to the main classes, so it has a section on the party page (http://swingdancesydney.com/parties.html#swingingatthepbc) and I create new pages for each individual S.A.T.PBC (eg http://swingdancesydney.com/parties/hettykateswingingatthepbc.html).
    Jazz BANG was a project I did in collaboration with another dance business, but which I’d probably do on my own in future. It has a stand-alone site (http://jazzbang.com.au/) and lots of on-site branding.

    5. A business site should be regularly updated and current. A dead website looks unprofessional.

    – Little design elements like a bit of code to automatically update the copyright notice in the footer can help:

    © Swing Dance Sydney

    Update content regularly. Content is king. Using something like wordpress or other simple blogging tools can sidestep the bottleneck between the website manager and the business/client. Content like: when/where classes are is most important. Same goes for contact info. And party info. Basically, anything that you value. And if you don’t value that info, it shouldn’t be on your site.

    I’m currently toying with the idea of using twitter to update class info for my site. But it’s so easy for me to udpate it (and I need to do it once every 6 weeks at most), I can’t be bothered automating a feed or anything.

    6. It’s worth looking at content management and file sharing for the team.
    We use google docs to share things like Codes of Conduct, teachers agreements, class curriculums, event running sheets, performance music, class videos, and so on. It’s wonderful. You can also use it for things like class surveys, because it lets you make nice forms. I’m considering using it to collect info from people inquiring about private classes, who need to provide data before we book classes for them.
    I have also used drupal, dropbox (which is the blurst), and a couple of others. Good tools have to have:
    – version control (!!!)
    – ability to group-edit documents live (and track changes live)
    – desktop, mobile, and web versions for different modes of access
    – ability to share pages publicly
    – spreadsheet, word processing, calendar applications

    7. And last, but most importantly, you need an online shop.
    You can’t get by without it.
    I use paypal, even though it takes a nasty cut, because it’s simple and has mass penetration – peeps know it, trust it, and can use it.
    I have to be able to:
    – sell class passes
    – sell tickets to dances
    – sell workshop passes
    – be able to pay for facebook ads
    – pay for various online expenses (eg buying music)

    I’m sure there’s much more to think about, but like you, because I do so much of this stuff already, I find it hard to figure out what people need.

    This next blob is stuff for people who are reading along and curious about web design…. which I know very little about, but as per usual, have lots of opinions about. I did an information management postgrad dip which did some work on design, and a lot on users, managing, and accessing information. My cultural studies/media studies background is probably more useful. And learning to use html and css experimenting with this website was probably the most useful of all!

    But of course, as with any decent design process, you should make yourself some different user personas to reflect the different user types:
    – new students
    – existing students
    – out of town visitors
    – social dancers
    – occasional workshoppers

    …and where and how they’re likely to use your site.

    Of course, the different user types you target should reflect your business model, and how you position your business in your local, national, and international lindy hop scene.

    I do the websites for my own business, and I’m not hugely good at it. With http://swingdancesydney.com/ I was using three major user types:
    – new students
    – existing students
    – local peeps who are into social dancing

    So the key areas of the site are:
    – classes
    – parties
    – about/contact/shop

    And the less important parts are:
    – music
    – social dancing in sydney

    I use facebook for for the sort of random stuff that encourages users/peeps to engage with the school in a less formal way. I feed people back to the official site regularly, and try to keep the official site useful.

    I need to rework the official website, pare back the content a bit, simplify the site structure and navigation.
    My biggest fuckup is using images that are too big.

    My other, collaborative project, Harlem http://harlem.org.au/ Has a stand-alone site which is super-simple – only two pages. One has all the info you need, and the other is an about page. It’s definitely mobile-first. I make sure that all the pages link back to my official business site to help the googles.

    1. That was a through (and awesome) response!

      I like that you brought up the idea of persona based marketing. I find many organizations even outside the scope of website design do not appear to have a target audience. In result, their advertising material and outreach efforts appear generic to everyone versus exciting to a segment of potential dancers.

      A unified PR strategy is a rarity in the swing dance world, but awesome when done correctly. One simple thing we do at Boston Lindy Hop is for our monthly newsletter through Mailchimp we have that auto-post on various social media accounts (Facebook, etc.). Our newsletter also contains links to our various social media pages as well. This way individuals who know about us through social media can find out about our newsletter and vice versa. Following the old sales adage “7 touches to make a sale”, the more avenues that people willingly opt in to hear information about our services the better.

      Something I would like to touch on is the idea of tracking how effective an organizations marketing outreach is important. For the organization I run we have in our class registration form as well as our end of class series services a section to enter how a person heard about us. In addition I have Google Analytics set up to track behavior of individuals who go to a class page and sign up for classes. Combining this I can make an educated guess of which of our marketing campaigns are successful and we should spend more money/time on versus ones that were flops and probably need to be retired. In my experience word of mouth has and continues to be always the best way of getting new dancers for my studio.

      Lastly something I want to mention is how important hallway testing is, especially if part of your target audience is individuals who are trying out swing dancing for the first time. Giving your website on multiple devices to individuals who have no idea about your organization is a great way to find out insights of what is clear versus difficult with your website. Often simple things such as changing the color of a button or emphasis on text can have great results.

      P.S. I think your website is the first time I encountered anyone using the Dublin Core Metadata tags. Fun thing to learn about!

  3. Do you have some links to your sites/scene stuff, please? I’m curious!

    Oh yes, a unified PR strategy is important. I feel like I’m on top of it with event promotion, but less coherent when it comes to the ongoing PR for may dance classes :| I feel as though there are a couple of major ‘waves’ or seasons in the dance calendar: we all get a massive spike in the first part of the year (Jan-Mar) then there’s a slump as everyone’s new year’s resolutions wear off, and we move into the colder, wetter part of the year. When we get to about June, we see another bump, cresting in about July or August. And then things are interesting as we push towards christmas.
    There’s actually a great demand for classes and workshops in December (after christmas) and January (before the new year gets hardcore). Australia tends to work on a calendar year, so the longest holiday (school holiday in particular) is over christmas. So new dancers have more time for dancing. But we find all the teachers are totally buggered and tired, and need a break during that part of the year!

    So I’ve been looking at ways to do promotion in the moments before those slumps happen, and to offer sustaining things during peak times. I feel as though we’re kind of rebuilding parts of our scene at the moment in Sydney. Some classes have good numbers and always have. Some of the social things do. But our general standard of dancing is much, much lower than it should be for such an old scene. So we could probably do with something to push people to classes, or to push them to work on their dancing. Competitions, weekend workshops, or other things targeting more experienced dancers would be good.

    ….anyway, I find these weekendy/irregular things have to be built into the calendar and PR strategy well in advance, so you have enough money to do them, and also have enough time to develop a proper PR strategy.

    The FB/newsletter/twitter cross-posting thing is important. We do that for some things (eg our fb posts cross-post to twitter), but I tend to manually link up the newsletter on fb, because I like to add a personal touch. But 7 touches is really important.

    Tracking PR! This is SO IMPORTANT!
    We also keep track of how people found us (‘the internet’ is always no.1, but a recent bit of coverage in the newspaper, the online version of Time Out and the paper Time Out really changed that. And I found the Time Out’s little overview of all the swing dancing was super powerful – it presented the swing dance world as this bustling community of spaces and places and parties, rather than just a ‘class’. And this has been solid gold for all of us. Goes to show: cross-promotion is POWERFUL. As we knew.

    I will have a look at google analytics – I have it set up for basic stats, but I’m not so good at tracking who does what. I should track our shop more carefully! Excellent point!

    Word of mouth: solid GOLD.

    Hallway testing: brilliant suggestion.

    Our current website was intended as a sort of temporary-permanent measure, with the goal of rejigging it in about 6 months to a year, once we had some stats on who used what, what paths were important, etc. So I have some plans to rework the site.

    Dublin Core! Lolo. I learnt that in my info-mgmt grad dip. I dunno how useful they are, really, but I figure it’s good practice. And metadata is important :D

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