How To: Create a Website for Your Fitness Facility
There are four main questions in creating a website for your facility: “Where?”, “How?”, “What?”, and “Who?”.
1) Where — Where can people find your website?
This is commonly referred to as a domain name, URL, or web address. It’s what someone types into their Internet browser to find you.
If you’d like your own domain name, you’ll need to buy it. Domain names are inexpensive, normally less than $10/year, unless they have already been taken.
Domains that people think will be popular get gobbled up like real estate on a shoreline. To see if a domain you want is available, I recommend www.namecheap.com. If your dream name isn’t available, there’s still a chance you can buy it, but you might have to pay the owner a pretty penny.
You may be able to find someone that can add you to theirs for free. Think of it like a house address. Someone might own a house but put you up for free, maybe by adding Apt 1 or Fl 1 to their address. For a domain, it’s normally expressed as yourname.mainaddress.com. This is where sites like WordPress come in. They will put you up at yourname.wordpress.com.
Speaking of which, we love fitness facilities, and would be happy have you at yourfacility.improvingfit.com, if you ask nicely.
2) How — How will you put your site online?
A website is really a collection of computer files like text and image files. Just like having a folder on your desktop, these files need to be stored, and just like you paid for “memory” on your computer, you’ll need to pay to store them somewhere.
This is called “website hosting”. Your files will be stored on a “server”. For a typical gym site — which is only about 5 pages and 20 files, hosting isn’t too complicated.
Some solutions offer their own uploading solutions — you upload files to their site. Others require you to use special software, normally called “FTP”, to upload the files to the server. Newer solutions help you create the file site and files and automatically store them for you.
A key issue in this category is how you update those files once they are there. Sure you might find a storage solution, but how easy will it be to maintain your files?
Another issue is email integration. In most cases, you’ll want to use the email@example.com. This is possible with most solutions, but has different levels of complexity.
This also has free options. Normally this once again involves leaving the files at yourname.someoneelsessite.com. If you decide you want your own site or need customization that the website builders don’t provide, you typically pay for hosting.
Hosting typically goes for about $100/year. I recommend namecheap.com again for this. And just like the last category, we’d be happy to host your facility at yourfacility.improvingfit.com.
…we’d be happy to host your facility at yourfacility.improvingfit.com.
3) What — What will your website include and what should it look like?
A lot of business owners will think this is easier than it is. “I’m hiring a web developer, he’ll handle all of this.” The secret is, that content is king. That means you have to leverage your years of experience in the industry to communicate with your customers/potential customers in a way that they expect in order to earn business. Your website developer is only as good as the content you provide him, because he can add some beautiful images, but you need to provide him with the right info and content to make the site useful. If you don’t, he’ll spend most of his time, budget, and peace of mind, asking for it.
Here’s a quick list to open the conversation.
i) Pictures: Show off your facility. Pictures should tell the story of what you offer, and chances are, each potential customer has a short list of things they are looking for.
a) Show off all fitness areas: Obviously show the main “floor”, but if you have any separate areas that won’t be covered in the next equipment section, share those too. For example, a stretching area or yoga room.
b) Equipment: Highlight your best equipment, but also be sure to include any equipment that might be on a potential customer’s short-list. It could be the difference between them stopping in for a tour or joining elseswhere.
c) Amenities: Include anything that makes your facility better than your competitors’. A pool would be an obvious example, but less obvious highlights like having a bigger parking lot than competitors should also be highlighted through a picture. Locker rooms should always be included.
d) Staff/Members: Staff pictures are really important for communicating who you are and what makes you unique. This is a distinguishing factor between facilities who put effort into their site and those who didn’t. Your facility is a community, and people want to know they will be surrounded by the right people.
ii) Who you are: Communicate your brand. You’ll need your logo and slogan. Also, some description of the things that make you unique is important. What things do you believe strongest in? If I asked what makes you better than a competitor, what would you say?
iii) Your location: Your location is always a selling point. You’ll almost always gain members just because you’re near them. Mention what businesses are nearby that you could attract their employees. Mention what else there is to do in the area before or after a workout. Services like Google Maps make it easy to include a map.
iv) Programming: Anything with set times needs to be communicated. It’s too much information to remember, so people will want to come back and reference it. Today’s generation finds it comical to collect paper copies and to have them on hand every time they consider going to an event.
v) Hours: Definitely include your hours.
vi) Staff: People want to make sure you know what you’re doing. Short staff descriptions provide belief that you’ve created an environment that they can succeed in. Personal trainers should have their credentials listed.
vii) Amenities: If you’ve done everything I’ve mentioned so far, you’ve already described some of your amenities in a section about what makes you unique and included some pictures, but use this as an opportunity to punctuate that sentence. Include a comprehensive list.
4) Who — Who will be responsible for changes once you have a website created?
This is another time and cost drain that first-time website owners don’t usually expect. They tend to think that whoever creates their site will be able to make “quick” “small” changes to it. Surely these changes are easy.
What they fail to realize is that these changes require regular maintenance, prioritization, and management. Now think of your developer. Chances are those aren’t words that describe him or her — she’s more creative, artistic, and less structured. The truth is someone who enjoys web maintenance is very different than someone who enjoys web development.
That’s not to say that you’ll need to find a different person — most developers offer maintenance. It’s a warning that often times this is their least favorite aspect of what they do, and they’re going to try to make up for this, like we all do, with time and money, either charging more or having horrible turnaround times.
And even though you don’t plan on ever using the files they create — hell they’re in a different language — you should be able to get your hands on them. This is contingency planning. If something goes wrong, or in five years when you decide your website is outdated, you’re going to need access to those files. And if you’re working with someone new, old guy is not going to want to make it easy.
Like everything else in life, creating an amazing website is a result of effort.
Creating a website for your facility can be scary. There are so many moving pieces that it can be intimidating. Hopefully this guide will give you an understanding that will help you hone in on a plan that works for your facility.
Some amazing technologies have been created that makes it easier and less expensive than ever to get your site up and running. Yet there’s a fine line between leveraging free tools and creating a site that celebrates and enhances your unique offering.
Like everything else in life, creating an amazing website is a result of effort. The longer you spend enhancing your site, building quality content, and building your brand, the better your facility’s site will perform.