Analysis of 4 gym websites and how they’re hemorrhaging money An answer to the question, “What do you actually get out of remote UX testing?”

Gym weights


This is an analysis of the worrying results we got from running user experience tests on gym websites, showing how people search for and use them to signup for a membership. Why did we do this?

Well, it’s one thing to grasp the literal concept of remote UX testing – i.e. video recordings that show how people use your website and what they think about the experience. It’s another thing to recognise the value of the insights it provides – i.e. what does that have to do with making money?

We decided to illustrate the commercial value of UX testing using gym websites, since they operate on a commercial framework that could easily and heavily benefit.

Users had free reign to find gyms via Google search and choose one based on their criteria, so we actually have insights on many gyms – too many to cover in one piece. Which is why this shows only a tiny amount, relating to the websites of Virgin ActiveDavid Lloyd LeisureDW Fitness Clubs, and Pure Gym.

Gym Brands

Maybe these gyms aren’t doing too badly (maybe they are). But one thing’s for sure – they all could be generating greater online revenue, if only they were to fix the many issues analysed here.

We’ll show you exactly the kinds of deep, hidden (and very costly) issues that remote UX testing uncovers, relating to these areas:


First impressions


SEO, PPC, and search


Competitor benchmarking

Multi-device experience


 First impressions


There are so many clichés about the power of first impressions that I needn’t remind you of them. But do you also understand that the first impression people get from your site, alone, can put them off buying from you?

If in any doubt, listen to the heavy sigh this user lets off as he lands on the DW Fitness site. When he sees the gym website on the search results page, he actually starts by saying it has a good reputation – then he clicks through and it all comes tumbling down:



His first impression makes him conclude that DW Fitness is a “commercial gym” and exactly the kind he’d stay away from. He’s not the only one to have had that reaction.

Does DW Fitness see itself as a “commercial gym”? Even if so, does it want that to be a reason for potential customers not to join?

You need to know the first impression your gym website or app (shopfront) is giving off – whatever that may be – and how that affects your customers’ online behaviour.




The backlash against gym pricing systems probably hit fever pitch a few years ago – but it’s far from resolved and the BBC has just launched a new documentary scrutinising memberships.

But many gyms seem to think the storm has passed – that they can get away with putting no pricing or confusing information on their websites. “Let’s get them on the phone with a human who can persuade them while tabling our high prices,” they might think.

Where they’re missing a trick is in the number of potential customers who don’t bother getting in touch after a terrible experience online.

Here’s a guy who’s left nowhere to go after failing to find pricing info on the David Lloyd website:



He even tries making excuses for the gym, suggesting that the reason for the lack of transparency is that prices differ per club. But guess what – the club finder feature ain’t working either. Result = lost potential conversion.

This video illustrates the other beauty of remote UX testing – you will find hidden technical bugs and errors, without needing to seek them out. That’s because each user tests using a different physical device, internet connection, software and many other variables.

SEO, PPC and search


This is one of the most overlooked areas where remote UX testing can help a gym website boost its online sales – watching how people use search engines and choose a website from the results displayed.

This lady tries to find her local Virgin Active in Collingtree, straight from Google search. But the first Virgin Active she sees on the results page is actually the one in Riverside Park:



You should also notice that Google does present results for the Collingtree gym website – but they’re below the first couple of results (which includes an ad by Pure Gym) and the user misses that.

She, and many others, pay attention to the first couple of results and skim the rest – she expects to find the most relevant result at the very top. If your webpages and PPC ads aren’t optimised, they’re as good as invisible.

If we were to add up opportunities from all the local areas in the UK, how many people searching for local gyms do we reckon Virgin Active is missing out on?



Gym websites live and die by the content in their pages.

If you want to see just how soul-destroying poorly written content is, watch this lady struggle to find additional information about Virgin Active memberships:



The page repeats itself twice – using information which had already been provided on the page that said Find out more.

Think that’s the worst of it? Think again. She tries taking another route but when she clicks to See more details, an entirely different page repeats itself all over again:



“Very annoying,” is how this lady explained the whole episode. I don’t think they’ll be seeing her membership.

Competitor benchmarking


This one is exactly what it sounds like – you can spy on your competitors, through the eyes of potential customers.

It’s one thing to look at competitors’ websites yourself – and that thing is called “irrelevant” because you’re not going to buy from a competitor and your opinions don’t matter. You’re not weighing up pros and cons like someone who would genuinely make a purchase.

Potential customers, on the other hand, are full of opinions that can help you steal business from competitors – and remote UX testing is a perfect way of gathering that insight. Just get people to test competitor sites or tell them to find a gym by searching on Google (like we did).

Here’s an example of a user expressing very contrasting opinions about two gyms.

She isn’t too hot on the Pure Gym website. “There’s nothing exciting about it,” she says:



On the other hand, she can’t get enough of the Virgin Active site. “They’ve got everything,” she says:



Most importantly, she gives her reasons for having these opinions – so you know exactly what to ditch, what to keep and what to steal.

Now, imagine having that kind of insight from 9 more prospective or existing customers… every month.

Multi-device experience


You may have noticed that the videos used in this piece show a mixture of users on mobile and tablet. That’s important if you want to get a full picture of how to increase the revenue generated by your site.

We all know (or should know) that people access websites from a whole range of devices. We should also know that responsive design ≠ mobile optimised. You have to separately optimise your gym website on each device, otherwise you’ll be losing potential customers and money.

Don’t believe us? Check out this scathing assessment of the Virgin Active mobile site, as a user makes her final choice on a gym:



I know another user, whose video we saw earlier, liked the Virgin Active site but she was on a different device. That’s the beauty of remote UX testing – you can get a well-rounded batch of qualitative data, every time you run a test.

And in instances like with this lady, it means you don’t miss areas that need critical improvement because you’re focussing only on the positives.

Can anyone who relies on their gym website to make money or generate leads afford not to know the kinds of insights UX testing provides? Absolutely not.

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Timi is a London-based copywriter and full-time marketing sceptic – there are now more unvalidated opinions out there than ever.

He became a UX testing enthusiast after seeing its power while working at TUI – the world’s largest travel, leisure and tourism company. He then joined WhatUsersDo to sharpen his UX knowledge and work side-by-side with the field’s best and brightest.

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