Our choir website (rushmoormvc.com) is now over 4 years old, so I am starting to think about refreshing it. I decided to take a look around at other choir websites to see if there are any good ideas that I could borrow.
This activity ended up in me doing an analysis of the state of choir websites in general – and you might be interested in the results.
Now, I do understand that amateur choirs do not have the funds to continually change their website presence, but I must say that I was slightly disappointed to see the overall standard.
With modern self-use tools such as Wordpress, self-help videos on Youtube and someone with a little bit of IT confidence you can build yourself a great site. No need to employ an agency. Take a look at my post on building a website as a start: “Your choir website – why, what and how”.
The choir websites survey
As I live in Surrey, I decided to look at the choirs based in that county as my sample set. I found 135 choirs, not including church choirs or operatic groups. Having said that – if a choir has zero digital presence then I would not have found it – and nor would anyone else who may be looking to join a choir.
So, this is your first suggestion: You need to be visible online.
Dying or dead choir websites
Out of the 135 choirs surveyed 13 had no website and 15 sites had not been maintained, were not live or broken. Only 1 of those sites had a message that said it was being updated.
Some of these could be down to the choir unfortunately ceasing to exist – but I do not think that 20% of the choirs had gone away. Unfortunately, anyone looking at joining or booking a local choir will come to the same conclusion, namely that the choir had folded.
Suggestion 2: Your online presence needs to be a living one.
A few of those choirs did have a Facebook page. By all means have a Facebook page – it is great for promotions and ongoing communication with supporters. But I would strongly recommend that you have a website as the core of your publicity. Facebook has ever-changing algorithms for when and if posts are displayed which means you are not in control of the information being distributed. It is also more suited to short-term transactional information rather than communications that you want to have a longer ‘shelf-life’.
Suggestion 3: Don’t rely on Facebook alone.
Insecure choir websites
It used to be the case that, apart from the hassle factor of potentially having your website corrupted maliciously, you didn’t need to worry too much about security unless you were recording people’s contact details or taking payments. That has all changed now.
When you look at a website web address it starts with either “http://“or “https://”.
HTTP means HyperText Transfer Protocol. HTTP is the underlying protocol used by the World Wide Web and defines how browsers portray your website.
HTTPS is a secure version of that protocol. HTTPS guarantees that users are talking to the server they expect, and that nobody else can intercept or change the content they're seeing. It is a relatively easy to include an HTTPS certificate on your choir website (you don’t have to redevelop it) – your hosting service should provide the facility.
Last year Google announced that sites using HTTPS would get preferential treatment in Google searches. In addition, when you go onto a website your browser now highlights the site as “Not secure” if it only uses HTTP.
So, there are two negative impacts of not using HTTPS – Google searches may not find you and when someone does come to your site you appear to be “untrustworthy”.
In my survey of choir websites only 42% were using HTTPS. That is not good!
Suggestion 4: Use HTTPS.
Obviously, this is not the only security measure you should be taking on your site – there are plenty of others, but that is a topic all to itself for another day!
Are you legal?
What do you look like?
The style and “look and feel” of choir websites can be fairly subjective. However, sites that have been coded directly in HTML by an amateur, with a plethora of colours, fonts and long blocks of text do convey an ‘out-of-touch’ amateur image to the choir.
Fashions and technology move on. To look attractive to audience and choir members you do need to refresh your look. This is quite easy to do with modern tools like Wordpress.
In addition, bear in mind that may people will be looking at your choir website from a smartphone, rather than a desktop computer so making sure that your design is “responsive” is vital.
You should focus on using much more visual content, including video where possible.
And also, to writing short, punchy pieces of text rather than long wordy paragraphs. Tell a good story about your choir – you don’t need to write a thesis about it!
I classified the Surrey choir websites styles in 4, albeit subjective, types:
- ‘Old’ (very out of date, basic html coded, bad impression): 11%
- ‘Functional’ (does the job, but not good looking): 40%
- ‘OK’ (style could do with a little refresh): 26%
- ‘Good’ (relatively up-to-date and modern looking): 23%
You can see that, in my humble opinion, most choir websites could do with at least a ‘touch-up’, and over half need a re-design.
Suggestion 6: Refresh the design of your choir websites.
Is your choir website of any use to visitors?
What is the point of your choir websites? In the early days of personal websites, it was usually just a hobby or amusement for the ‘webmaster’ to play with. This is not the case these days.
No-one will spend any time on your site if it does not give them what they are looking for. They also need to find what they are looking for quickly and easily – not hidden in screeds of text or through many levels of menu navigation.
The first thing to do is identify who you are targeting with your website. For the purposes of the choir websites survey I assumed the prime visitors we would be looking for are to be potential audience members and existing or prospective choir members. For these visitors I identified what would be the very basic information they would hope to find and evaluated the choir websites for that content.
Getting in touch – contact details
Thankfully only 2 out the websites had no contact details at all. However, some had them hidden in text blocks and spread around various pages. You need to have a contact section clearly placed and navigable from anywhere on the site.
Suggestion 7: Make it very easy to contact you.
If you are hoping to attract audiences, then I guess it should be obvious that you maintain an up-to-date list of upcoming concerts dates and details.
Equally, prospective new choir members might like to watch you in action before joining. It might even be useful for existing choir members to remind themselves when they are required to turn up. Surprisingly, 18% of the sites I looked at did not have any of this information!
Suggestion 8: Make your future concert timetable obvious.
What do you sing?
A major question in the minds of potential choristers and audience members alike is “Will I like what the choir sings?”.
You need to make clear what style of music your choir focuses on and what to expect from a rehearsal or concert. I was glad to see that I couldn’t deduce the style of only 4% of the choirs I looked at. However, some of the choir websites did need to be waded a bit through to find out – it wasn’t obvious.
Suggestion 9: Clearly state your choir’s musical style.
Can we hear and/or see you?
A very clear way to illustrate your choir’s musical style is to include recordings on your website. These can be audio recordings, or even better, video.
There are good Wordpress plug-ins that allow you to do this on your website. Alternatively, you can put the recordings up on Youtube and just link to them. Sadly, I could only find recordings for 30% of the websites I examined.
Suggestion 10: Provide video or audio recordings of your choir through your website.
Is it easy for prospective new choir members?
When someone is searching for a choir to join, they will have a number of additional questions to the music style. For example, they want to know about rehearsals (where and when), membership costs, whether an audition is needed and what will be expected of them as well as what they can expect from the choir.
Often, they will be looking at a number of choirs and if they have to make a further call or email to answer these questions - they may just opt for the choir that answers them on their website instead.
My examination of Surrey choir websites seemed to indicate that 8% were not interested in getting new members!
Suggestion 11: Give clear answers to the typical new members questions – make it easy to join.
Choir members engagement
Only half of the choir websites I looked at had a ‘Members Page’. This is a great way of sharing all the information that choir members want, such as rehearsal schedules, practice music, social event diaries, member contact lists and photos of interest. You will find it can also help to reduce time wasted at rehearsals giving out notices or multiple emails sent backwards and forwards.
This is the sort of information that would not be of interest to the casual website visitor. Indeed, it may even be illegal to share some of it outside the choir, such as for privacy (names, addresses, phone numbers) or copyright (music copies) reasons. This does mean that you need to ensure that the members area is at least password protected for security.
Suggestion 12: Create a password-protected Members Area on your website.
Refresh or replace
In this post I have listed 12 suggestions that can help to refresh your website. At some stage though, you will need to update it more thoroughly – for that I suggest you start with my post “Your choir website – why, what and how”.