Don’t let your fitness facility get left behind as the world becomes increasingly connected to smartphones and tablets.
Mobile is on the move: According to comScore (2014), more than 166 million Americans aged 13 and over now have smartphones, and they are using them for much more than talking and texting: almost 60% of smartphone users and close to 75% of tablet users use the search function to get immediate information while they are on the go. What time is the next indoor cycling class? How late is the gym open? Where is this trainer located?
Savvy studio owners and fitness trainers know that to meet this need, they must optimize their websites for mobile users. “My priority is my clients, so I have to make sure that everything is easy,” says Holly Del Rosso, a fitness trainer in Los Angeles and New York City. “If clients want to book their sessions over the phone, I want to make sure they can.”
Read on for six tips from studio owners and a Web professional on how—and why—to make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
1. Know the Difference
The gold standard for a mobile website is a complete redo that incorporates “responsive design.” This means that you technically have only one website, but it automatically adapts to whatever device your visitor is using, whether it’s a smartphone, a tablet or a desktop. “You’re dealing with only one bucket of code, and it knows what size your screen is,” notes Mary Killelea, president of Working Web Solutions.
A cheaper alternative—at about one-quarter of the cost of a full redesign—is to create a mobile version of your website. This means stripping out elements of the desktop (regular) version that aren’t critical to a handheld device. “You’ll have bigger buttons, and you’ll skinny down your content to the essentials, such as hours, class schedules and directions,” explains Killelea. In other words, you’ll build a simplified version of your official website that’s just more mobile-friendly.
Killelea notes that while a mobile version is better than nothing, a redesign coded to the latest standards is what Google is looking for. “I always recommend a redesign if you can do it,” she advises.
2. Ensure That Your Site Loads Quickly
“We live on referrals. I want to know that if my clients are talking to their buddies, they can pull my site up and show it to them,” declares Damon Moschetto of Florida Fitness Coaches. And we’re not a patient society. Research shows that 57% of mobile users will abandon your website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Speed is important for your Google ranking too. Google Analytics has standard and test load times for desktop and mobile. Keep your mobile site fast by stripping out unnecessary graphics and video that can slow download speeds.
3. Simplify Site Navigation
Not only does your mobile site have to be fast, but visitors have to be able to quickly find what they’re looking for. Whether you’re doing a redesign or a mobile-friendly version, providing only the critical elements will help your load times.
“People don’t need to have everything on the mobile device; they just need the basics. If the mobile site is not easy to navigate, they’re going to click out,” Moschetto observes. “The main things people use our mobile website for are to check our class schedules and programs and to sign up from their mobile devices. I make sure that that information is easy to find.”
Ensure that the most important facility information is readily attainable on a mobile device: hours, phone number, schedules, reservation options, event information and driving directions. And include a phone icon that people can find quickly and easily if they want to call you. Remember this: “Clients who access your site on their mobile device are in ‘buying mode,’ so to speak,” suggests Killelea. “Make sure there’s a call to action, whether it’s to sign up for a class or get a body fat test. You want your mobile site to encourage users to take action.”
4. Find an Expert
You’re a fitness expert; don’t feel that you have to be a Web design expert too. Del Rosso recommends that studio owners find a good graphic designer and Web developer rather than trying to do this work themselves. “Invest in great Web design and development up front, but then make sure you know how to update the site on your own. I love knowing that I have control and can do it myself.” A good Web designer will talk you through the steps for doing easy updates, so you can make changes later without having to pay a consultant again.
5. Optimize It
Have you heard the phrase “search engine optimization”? SEO refers to where your site ranks in a search engine’s list of “organic” (unpaid) results. A website that has been properly optimized will feature keywords your clients might be searching for—for example, “Yoga Studios in L.A.” SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for and what search terms or keywords are typed into search engines. To improve your SEO, you might need to edit the content and coding to increase their relevance to specific keywords. Not sure what keywords apply to you? The Google AdWords Keyword Planner is a free tool that can help.
“SEO is huge,” asserts Del Rosso. “In New York City, for example, it’s hard to find small, independent gyms. You can have an amazing website and offer the best fitness classes, but if people can’t find you, it doesn’t matter.” She also uses SEO when she is referring people to fitness facilities in other places. “If I know someone needs a trainer in Chicago, I’m going to do a quick search on my smartphone for a trusted source to direct the person to. I love to make referrals; it’s a favor for both parties, and it helps emphasize how passionate I am about fitness. I start by finding the professionals who are ranked the highest.”
“Basically,” Killelea explains, “SEO is necessary because it is telling the search engine that you deserve to be a high-ranked website, and that’s how people find you.”
6. Don’t Fall Into the App Trap
We’ve all heard the phrase “There’s an app for that.” It promotes the notion that everyone needs to have an app. It even makes some people wonder if they can trade a full website for an app.
That’s a no-no. “An app is a specialized, custom-built feature that provides one specific function,” Killelea explains. “If you want to get mobile-friendly content to as wide an audience as possible, a mobile website is the way to go, since it allows you to alter the information as needed.”
That’s not to say you can’t incorporate an app, but it shouldn’t be your main vehicle. For example, Del Rosso uses BookFresh on her site to make scheduling her clients’ appointments quick, clean and simple. Clients download the app and use it to request sessions, and she can confirm the requests—all from a mobile device. “My clients don’t have time to figure out a confusing app, and this is very intuitive and convenient. It’s a great add-on to my website.” This particular app sends reminders, and it allows her to add notes—for example, so that clients know what to eat beforehand.
In today’s mobile world, having a mobile-friendly website is a necessity, not an option. “You have to make your content accessible to users, whatever setting they’re in,” Killelea advises. Increasingly, that is on a handheld device.
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