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Our YMCA has one of the worst good-looking sites ever made

We love our local YMCA.  Both of my girls play soccer there, we’ve done various swim lessons, and my wife and I work out there as often as we’re able.  Further, everyone we’ve met there has been very kind, knowledgeable and friendly.  However, someone up high on the Atlanta YMCA food chain made some poor decisions, because their (fairly new) website is shockingly bad.  Really bad.  Really, really bad.

So let’s say I need to find some information about my local Y.  I go to, choose “locations” and there it is — McCleskey-East Cobb Family YMCA.  So far, so good.  It’s a nice-looking site, but now things get bad.

The main tabs

There are four main tabs on the site:

  • Photos: Ok, having photos is always a good thing.  Not sure I would have lead with that, but it’s acceptable.
  • 360 Tour: The home page is not the place for that, but maybe it’s really cool.  I don’t know, because I couldn’t get it to work at all and I tried in two different browsers.
  • Programs: Are you expecting a list of programs?  Me too.  Instead, it’s a YouTube video showing you how to use the search box at the top of the page.  really?
  • Calendar: That wouldn’t be a bad thing to include, but it’s wildly incomplete.  Apparently, all they have on Monday is knitting.  Yikes!

Fortunately, the “programs” tab also opens up some links on the side.  I was on there recently looking for information on swim lessons for my daughter, and there is “Swim Lessons and More” in the sidebar.  Perfect!  Except I can’t click on it.  Why not?


They seem to be aware that the search engine is the only way to go, so I dive in and search for “swim lessons”.  It comes back with a ton of results, and a note to “include branch name in search”.  That seems dumb.  Don’t they know I was on the McCleskey page when I searched?  Ok, so I search for “McCleskey swim lessons” and the results are a little better.

Results 1-3: PDFs
Result 4: Link back to the McCleskey home page
Result 5:  A link to some other “programs” page.  It says to “browse programs by branch”, so I choose McCleskey.  It just takes me back to the McCleskey home page again. Aargh!
Result 6:  Search for a Class.  Ok, seems like my only choice.

Search For Classes

So I guess I’ll search for a swim class.  The problem now is too much info — they want to know which branch (again), class, month, age, days of the week, keyword and a class id.  Fortunately, most fields are optional.

While my daughter is now in Kindergarten, she still can’t swim very well.  So which class does she need?

  • Preschool Advanced
  • Preschool Advanced Beginner
  • Preschool Advanced Intermediate
  • Youth Beginner
  • Youth Intermediate

It apparently doesn’t matter, because none of those return any results for a 5 year old, so I just choose “all classes” to see what comes up.  Now I get five results, but four are unavailable because they’re almost over and the other one is an “Adventure Guide”.  Not sure what that is, but it’s probably not what I’m after.  Does the YMCA really not have any swim classes for a five year old?  I sure doubt it, but that’s how it looks:


Ok, let’s move on to soccer.  As I’ve mentioned, I’m coaching the soccer teams for both girls (“U6” and “U10”).  I know that the U6 girls practice on field “B2”, so I need to figure out where that is.  I know that field 1 is in front of the Y and 2 & 3 are behind, but was hoping to find some kind of facility map on the site.  Nothing.

So, I went out to “Field 2” on practice day and it turns out I was in the wrong place.  Back there was indeed field “2B”, but “B2” is actually on “Field 1”.  I found out later that if it starts with a letter, there is a silent “1” in front of it.  Wow!  A map of some kind certainly would have helped.  So “2B” is in the back, but “B2” is actually “1B2” and is in the front.  Got it?

Facility Map?

This is the strangest thing to me.  It seems that a big facility map would be awesome for a site like this and it wouldn’t be that hard to create.  Do something like the image below, but with each item clickable for details:

(no idea if those field numbers are accurate…)

When I click on “Fitness”, then show me photos of stationary bicycles and explain how great they are.  I could click on the pool and find info about open swim times, lessons, etc.  This isn’t rocket science.

Think about your audience

The bottom line is that you always need to remember who your audience is.  Similar to my “Don’t be like a University Website” post from last year, the people behind the new YMCA site got it all wrong.  They added things like 360 tours and photo galleries, when they should have been providing better program information and facility maps.

It’s not all bad, news — a lot of folks will visit the site looking for address, phone and hours of operation, which are thankfully right on the home page.  Now if they can get the rest of it fixed up, things will be all set!

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Mickey Mellen

Co-Founder and Technical Director

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