Tuesday, September 04, 2018

4 Choices for Building Studio Websites

In my last article I looked at why you need a website for your teaching studio. Building a website can be daunting, and in today's article I've chosen four services that make the process relatively simple to learn once you take the initiative to start.

The picture above is a slide from a talk I gave at The Royal Conservatory this summer, and it outlines four top choices you may wish to consider when building teaching websites. The prices below are accurate to early September 2018 and don't reflect future increases, decreases, or promotions.

But in reality the price doesn't matter. Once you've got a viable online presence and attract even one student for half-hour lessons for only one semester, each one of these services would have more than paid for a yearly investment.

1. My Music Staff

I use My Music Staff for my teaching website, and I run my studio using its tools. In addition to the website features, you can create a database of students, schedule them on a calendar, and tie those lessons to invoicing features, all visible on student and parent dashboards. You can also accept credit card payments, keep a repertoire database, manage downloads, expenses, mileage, publish a blog, and generate studio reports.

My Music Staff is web-based, so you're engaging with the site in a browser. However, it's a very fast and responsive site, and renders perfectly on any kind of device you're using. The MMS team have a strong Agile software development philosophy, so they iterate the service weekly with new features (their latest new feature as of late August was video streaming, among others). The price is another huge selling point: $12.95 for unlimited students and storage both in the US and Canada.

2. Music Teacher's Helper

I discovered Music Teacher's Helper in 2007 at the Toronto MTNA conference, and this company was the pioneer in the field of integrated studio websites. MTH has most of the same features as MMS although they are app-based, so the development schedule is not as speedy as that of MMS. Where MTH excel is in the large community of teachers writing for their blog and their extensive setup guides that you can buy in order to get your studio set up to compete online. Pricing depends on the size of your studio - when paid annually, the three tiers are US$11.66/month (up to 20 students), US$24.16/month (40 students), and US$40.83/month (unlimited students).

Both MMS and MTH can provide websites, although of the somewhat rudimentary kind. If you want a website that looks genuinely fabulous and has a much wider array of content and features, you might wish to consider the next two options. Be aware that you can use both MMS and MTH on the back-end of the next two options - with a small widget, students can easily log in from your third-party studio site to see their student dashboard.

3. Squarespace

If you don't know anything about building websites but still want something that looks fabulous, Squarespace is one of the best out-of-the-box solutions, with a more sophisticated depth of content that you can offer, including online stores and marketing tools. Take a look at the template selection - there are some beautiful designs here. Pricing as of writing is US$12/month for a personal site and US$18/month at the business tier.

4. WordPress

31% of the internet runs on WordPress. Although the learning curve might be a bit higher than with other services, you'll have access to themes, plugins, and Google Apps to help you get your site started. If you want to go with WordPress.com, pricing options are free (with ads and limited options), personal ($60/year CDN), premium ($120/year CDN), and business ($396/year CDN). Or you can self-host your website and use WordPress's open-source tools.

A small side-note about WordPress - its lead developer is none other than Helen Hou-Sandì, a graduate of Eastman's collaborative piano program. You might remember that a while back Helen redesigned this site - I've kept the same basic design since then.

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