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Designing Your Digital Storefront

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Clubs should think of their websites as a digital storefront — it’s a quick look into all they have to offer prospects and members. However, if your club’s website isn’t attention-grabbing, a customer may take their business to your competitor. 

According to Jonathan Fagg, the director of digital and media for GoodLife Fitness, a Canadian-based fitness chain, in order to ensure your website is making a good first impression your information and content should be easy to find and consume. “Customers are looking for information quickly,” he said. “Especially if they are researching potential clubs or gyms, you want to be able to inform and convert in as few clicks as possible.” 

A great way to guarantee your website has the right content is having a clear understanding of your audience. 

Fagg suggested utilizing personalization to ensure you are providing the right message to the right user. Additionally, understand how each segment uses your website. Prioritize functionality and information that is the most relevant to the audience and the device they are using to access it.

Catering your club’s website to different devices is a necessity in today’s world and can help with the overall functionality of the site. “Over 50% of the world’s internet browsing is now done on mobile devices,” said Fagg. “Having a responsive site is no longer an option and more a requirement. Tablet design is really dependent on your traffic and device patterns, but important to design for if traffic is high enough.”

Functionality is key to keeping members and potential members on your site rather than going to a different, practical website. A few years back, Fitness Formula Clubs (FFC), with 11 locations throughout Illinois, redesigned their site, cleared out the visual and informational clutter, and made it very prospect-oriented. They created a member page, which they were able to funnel members to for their needs.

However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Merikay Marzoni, the director of marketing and public relations for FFC, said their functionality had to pivot. “When we reopened, our homepage transformed to be much more member-centric, communicating information on reopening, safety and cleaning measures,” she said. “Turns out our reopening, safety and cleaning measures are also what prospects are interested in, so this shift worked for us.”

The coronavirus pandemic revealed the importance of a digital strategy, and this needs to be a key component of your overall online and offline experience. “Joining online provides a frictionless experience and one that is self-serve for your members,” said Fagg. “Ensure it’s simple, easy and provides potential members with a variety of options, but doesn’t overwhelm them. Your website is never closed, so if your club isn’t open 24/7, online joining is another way to ensure you don’t lose out on converting members.”

The pandemic also revealed the significance of clear, concise and direct information. Members and prospects want a health club that can give them information quickly, without bombarding them with sensory-overload images and chaotic layouts. A great way to fight this is by planning your site’s design before creating it. 

“Less is more,” said Marzoni. “We use a dominant color to help guide users to calls to action or more information. Relevant content is key, especially right now. We like FAQ pages, especially since reopening. These tend to help users find the content they are looking for quickly and easily.”

Photo galleries, testimonials and videos are three other great design elements FFC utilizes on its site. Marzoni said they took all new photos at their locations to show their social distancing measures and put them on each club’s homepage. “We are prominently displaying testimonials from members who have returned since our reopening,” she said. “And, we have posted several videos — which live on the website but can be used in emails and on social media — to reinforce and illustrate our safety, cleaning and operational procedures.”

Another key component your site should have is an easy way for your prospects or members to contact you. Marzoni said this can be done either through a form, chat feature or easy-to-find phone numbers that are manned and answered. 

A design element Marzoni and Fagg both agreed on was making sure your website is ADA accessible. Marzoni recommends familiarizing your team with Website Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 to assist with this process. “It’s one thing to have engaging content and design that draws users into interacting with your site,” said Fagg. “But, make sure it’s easy to find and easy to consume both for users who are able to see the screen and those using accessibility devices such as screen readers.” 

While it may seem there’s a lot to consider when it comes to designing your website, it is necessary. Health clubs’ websites are their digital storefronts, a sample of everything your club has to offer. It often can be the deciding factor if prospective members choose your club or take their business somewhere else.  

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Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is a staff writer for Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com

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