Good Site. Bad Site.

Four years ago I had the best conversation of my professional life with someone who was an expert in website design.  It blew my mind, and it really helped me create some beautiful, and super functional salon websites.  Although hairstylists are experts at being creative, our obsession with aesthetics becomes our biggest weakness when we try to design a website.  We want our own website to be stunning, better than everyone else’s, in-fact we want THE BEST, MOST SPECTACULAR WEBSITE EVER CREATED, and you know what that usually leads to? Crap.


For years, like 15 years, I kept hearing, “Elevate our industry. Elevate our industry. Elevate our industry.” and every single time it’s in reference to how stylists conduct themselves behind the chair, or how they choose (or not choose) their education, how they should “correct” their verbiage, etc.  But no one seems to be shining a spotlight on salon owners and their ultra-terrible websites. I’m calling bullshit on this one.  Elevating an industry needs to start at the top.  And the truth is, there’s a whole generation of salon owners out there that have completely missed the point of why websites exist and how they should function. 


Rule #1: Get Over it


Your website is never going to be aesthetically perfect. You know why?  Because even if it is the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen on a desktop computer, every device is different and they are constantly changing.  For example: That “perfect website” will be a little less stellar on an iphone X, and not quite as wonderful on an 6 Plus, and kinda weird looking on a Samsung Galaxy, and then it’ll be a disaster on a flip phone (oh, yeah…those are still around).  Website perfection does not exist, so stop focusing just on the aesthetics, and start focusing on functionality.  Most importantly:  Why does your website need to exist?


In my opinion, a salon website exists for one main purpose:  To get clients booked.  All the other stuff is just bonus.  The best salon websites have the following:


  • Call to Action(s):  This is the button(s) front and center at the top of the fold on your home page.  It should say exactly what you want your clients to do:  Book.  Whether it’s a “Book Online” button or a “Call to Schedule” button, it should be there. 
  • Click to Call:  If there are any phone numbers listed on the website, make sure a mobile user can just click it to call.
  • Mobile Optimized:  The entire website should be optimized to look and function just like the desktop version (or better) because over 70% of your users will be looking at your website on a mobile device
  • Original Images:  Schedule a photo shoot to get original images of your work, your salon, your style, etc.  It’s mostly going to be used for backgrounds so don’t stress about it too much. 
  • Cohesive Branding and Color Palette: If you are doing your own branding keep it simple, and if you are designing your own website, you’ll need 4 or 5 hex codes for a complimentary color palette.  If that part seems daunting check out design seeds for some sample palettes that come with all hex codes (for free!).


Time for Real Examples


Now I’m going to pick on someone.  I don’t want to, but for the sake of argument I have to.  I decided not to pick on the obvious choice: the super tacky and non-functioning typical salon website, unfortunately those are a dime a dozen and what fun would that be, it would be so obvious, right?  Instead, I found two equally gorgeous websites: 


Foster Glorioso, an upscale hair salon in Manhattan with one location.

Varnish Lane, an upscale nail salon in D.C. with two locations.


Just because a website is gorgeous doesn’t mean it’s “good”.  And for what it’s worth, just because a website is “good”, doesn’t mean it’s gorgeous.  Your website isn’t just a parking spot for your beautiful images.  A website has to function well for your clients (prospective and current), plus it has to TELL THEM WHAT TO DO.


The “Bad Site”: Foster Glorioso


#1 Static Homepage.  

Screen Shot, Image Credit: Foster Glorioso

This forces users to “enter” the site.  That is a dated approach because modern users are less likely to “click” and more likely to “scroll”, you have to give them what they want immediately.  This is not foreplay, just get to the point. If someone is kind enough to visit your website, just let them see it… don’t make them “enter”.


#2 Online Booking 

Screen Shot, Image Credit: Foster Glorioso

Once you “enter the website”, I totally love their Call to Action button front and center for the “Book Online”, but when you click on it there it is quite un-sexy and un-branded page. It is not cohesive with the rest of the website, plus it’s highly unlikely new clients will use it because of the immediate login. They will most likely call.  So if you’d prefer them to book online, make it easy.  Square and Booker are two simple but sophisticated online booking platforms that your website could easily integrate with. They are proven to be simple to use for clients.  


#3 Click to Call. It’s a huge annoyance when a website doesn’t have a click to call on the phone numbers, so it’s great that this one has a click to call for mobile devices, but it’s barely visible, and really should be more prominent.  Wondering how to do a click to call?  It can be as easy as inserting a link, except in this case your entire link would just read “tel:2025550134″ like I did here on this fake number 202-555-0134


#4 No policies.  How do I find you?  How do I tip you?  Where do I park?  Do you validate?  What if I’m late? Coming to a new salon is very intimidating to clients.  Make sure you take time on your website to spell it out for them so they can feel more comfortable.  Particularly if you charge for late cancellations, you want to make sure client’s have the chance to review this stuff, even if they don’t choose to read it, it should be there.


The “Good Site”: Varnish Lane

#1 Call to Actions.

Screen Shot, Image Credit: VARNISH LANE

The very first thing you see on this website are two buttons:  “Book an Appointment” and “Give a Gift Certificate”.  This is perfect because those are two very valuable things you need/want clients to do… put it front and center!


#2 Online Booking.

Screen Shot, Image Credit: VARNISH LANE

This website integrates with Booker and makes online booking seamless.  Although the branding is not similar to the website but, the client experience is excellent because Booker is so easy to use.


#3 FAQ’s Page.

Screen Shot, Image Credit: VARNISH LANE

They laid it all out, so any questions a client may have about the salon or the experience is all right there in black and white. I particularly like the tipping section “We request and appreciate cash gratuity” and the cell phone policy.


#4 Mobile Optimized.  The mobile version is just as good, with click to calls on all phone numbers and an easy to navigate menu.


Put up or shut up


It would be highly hypocritical if I chose not to disclose my own salon’s url at this point. Look at it here: 767 Monroe.  My website was DIY, it cost me less than $500 (including images).  Is my website more beautiful than the examples above?  No!  Are you kidding?  I was probably half-in-the-bag when I wrote most of the text, but it’s better than 90% of the salon websites out there and it’s ultra functional, following all the rules of a “good” salon website.  I built my salon’s website on a bootstrap budget, and I do not book clients any other way than online (read: no phone calls) so the website has been key.

All of this information should help better prepare you to design or redesign your site.  Even if you are not the one actually doing it, you will now know what to ask for.  If you are interested in building out a bootstrap website like mine, I’ll be writing about that soon, so stay in touch!



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