Spa Website Design
Elegant is the easy part — there is no shortage of beautiful websites in the world. The hard part is making your spa, salon or massage therapy website effective. And we have a specific definition of effective: one which brings in new clients.
We start the Online Spa Marketing Guide talking about traffic and conversion — the two key factors that determine your spa's success online. In this spa website design guide, we're going to focus on conversion: taking that traffic and turning it into new business. And, to do that, we're going to take our website visitors on a little trip.
The Website Road Trip
Your website is a travel guide taking visitors on a road trip. They start at your home page, and as their guide, it’s your spa website's responsibility to help them find the right destination. What’s that? Becoming a client, of course! You want them to end their trip by scheduling a massage or facial, or by buying an Instant Gift Certificate.
There will be some stops along the way, of course. Start off with a quick tour of what makes your spa unique. Make a little detour to check that your location is reasonably convenient. Peruse your menu of services, full of rich descriptions of the pleasure they’ll experience. Cheerfully answer all of those new client questions at every step of the journey.
Make it easy to always see the destination. Whenever your visitor is ready, your phone number and Instant Gift Certificate and Appointment links are always easy to find. They already know where they are, because they’ve seen them at every stop along the way.
Before we start our visitors on their journey, let's lay a little ground work. There has been tons of usability testing on websites to see how people actually use the web, and what works:
- The first heading and paragraph on the page are crucial. This is the most read element of any website page, and it must immediately communicate to your visitor that they're at the right place.
- Subheadings as you read down the page are critical — the first two or three words need to point out what the reader is looking for to bring them into the text.
- Visitors to your site aren’t reading your text thoroughly. They’re scanning to find exactly what they’re looking for.
- Graphics don’t get very much attention. If it's important to you, don't put it in a graphic.
- Make sure what you really care about is in your main text, and easily highlighted with a subheading.
- Put links to where your want your visitors to go in your main text. Don't rely just on your main navigation.
Your website has to be easy to figure out. It should build on the experience that your visitors have from using hundreds of other websites. If your website is confusing, they'll just move on to the next spa.
Don’t make me re-learn your website. Your home page should teach me
how your site operates, and I shouldn’t have to re-learn it once I go
to an “internal” page.
Become the Visitor
One of the best ways to be a great guide is to take the perspective of your visitor. Let's do that, and see what questions we need to answer for them.
Where am I, and do I really want to be here?
That’s the question your home page needs to immediately answer, in the first paragraph of the main content. Don’t be afraid to just say who you are and what you do.
But, this is more difficult than it sounds. You need to highlight what makes your spa unique, and do it concisely,
because your web site visitors are only going to give you a split
second to answer their question.
Make every word count. Make sure that first paragraph communicates the core essence of your spa. You want to encourage your first time visitors to realize they’ve found the right spa, and that they need to spend a little more time with you.
What do you want me to do?
They’ve found your website. They immediately know what you do and why you’re unique. Now, what do you want them to do?
Become your client, of course! You want them to:
- Schedule an appointment
- Buy an Instant Gift Certificate
- Buy product
So, don’t be shy. Make it obvious:
- Include your phone number and email (or link to your contact page) in your main content, along with links for Instant Gift Certificate and Book Online. This is the first area that new visitors are going to scan — and what you want them to do should be right there.
- Use subheadings to call out these options so that when someone scans your website, they can immediately find what they’re looking for. Need an appointment? Need a gift certificate? Here it is!
- Include your phone number and address in a separate section on your home page, and then carry this over consistently to every page on your site.
- Do the same with your primary navigation. Make sure you have links for Instant Gift Certificate, Book Online and Contact Us, starting on the home page and then in the same place on every other page on your site.
They've been to your website before and know who you are; now they want to know what’s new. What new services are you offering to entice me to return for another visit? What specials are you promoting (not necessarily discounts) for the upcoming gift-giving occasion? What are the upcoming events at your spa?
You're losing a great marketing opportunity if your home page is static. Don’t make your repeat visitors search around to find out what’s new at your spa — give them an obvious reason to call you again or buy another Instant Gift Certificate by always promoting relevant, current events on your home page.
Where are you?
Spas, salons, and massage therapists are local businesses, and one of the first things a new visitor to your website wants to know is, where are you?
They may be searching for themselves, in which case they want to see if your location is relatively convenient for them. Or, they may be purchasing an Instant Gift Certificate for someone some place else, and may not be very familiar with the city.
Make it easy to figure out where you are! Don't be one of those spa websites where it was challenging to just find their address — nevermind directions to the spa and a handy link to Google Maps or Mapquest. With that link to Google Maps, it would be very easy to enter Mom’s address and see if the spa is reasonably close.
Include your address and/or for multiple locations, the area that you serve. Make sure you have a consistent “Contact Us” link that provides more detailed information, with a link to one of the mapping services and directions to your location, particularly if you’re not on a major street.
When talking about the area that you serve, make sure and use the terms that people will search for when looking for a particular area. For example, your address might be in a suburb, but it’s generally referred to as the surrounding city. Include reference to convenient neighboring areas.
Faster, Website, Faster!
If your website takes 15 seconds to load, you’re losing half of your visitors. Even with fast broadband connections, there are plenty of spa websites that take even longer than that to load. The 10% of Internet users on dialup should just give up now.
Fancy Flash animations and huge graphics will lose you clients.
Don’t do it! If you need any more incentive to give up Flash animations, go see what a Flash website looks like on an iPad or iPhone — it's just blank!
What size website?
Everyone loves big screens, but 20% of your visitors still have 1024x768 pixels. You want a site that looks great on big screens, but doesn't cut out 20% of the market.
Jakob Nielsen gives us the three criteria for evaluating page layout at various sizes:
- Initial visibility: Is all key information visible above the fold so users can see it without scrolling? This is a tradeoff between how many items are shown vs. how much detail is displayed for each item.
- Readability: How easy is it to read the text in various columns, given their allocated width?
- Aesthetics: How good does your page look when the elements are at the proper size and location for this screen size? Do all the elements line up correctly — that is, are captions immediately next to the photos, etc.?
So, it’s not so simple anymore. Your site needs to work well at 800×600, 1024×768 and 1280×1024, and don’t forget checking at least the two most common browsers at all those resolutions, IE and Firefox.
Grade Your Website
In the end, to achieve our goal of an effective website that brings in new business, it really boils down to usability.
Jakob Neilsen sums it up in Usability 101:
- Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
- Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
- Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
- Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
- Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?