Is Your Website Helping or Hurting?

I have visited over 1000 camp websites in the process of setting up Summer Camp Guru. Some are very well designed, but I often find myself hunting around for the camp information, and sometimes it's incomplete. A decent website doesn’t require a large budget or programming expertise. Following are a few tips that will prevent parents from bouncing off your website.

First, make sure you can answer these three questions:

  • Who are your potential customers?
  • What do they want to know?
  • Is the information they’re looking for easy to find and read?


The Ultimate Test

Role play: you’re a busy mom who has to find ten weeks of summer child care. You are researching options in your cube during lunch. You stumble across the directory on some parenting website and are trying to make sense of the options. After navigating the directory you click over to various websites for further research. You have five camp websites open and are trying to copy the pertinent info into your planning spreadsheet. How long before you experience information overload?


8 Essential Elements to convert visitors to registrations

1.  You need a dedicated camp page that should be accessible from any other page on your site.

Ideally “camps” should be listed top navigation menu. This is easier if you’re a smaller kid-centric organization like a gymnastics or dance studio. If you’re a museum, it may be listed under “children’s programs” or “classes.”

Example: The Children’s Theatre of Charlotte clearly shows the page list under Education on the main menu.

example of a good website menu


2.  Showcase your camps on your homepage.

Include a “now registering” link or “check out our summer camps” action button to alert visitors who may not be specifically looking for camp info. (See Children’s Theatre example)


3.  Key details should be clearly displayed.

Dates, times, ages, cost, location. As a mom, I don’t know if your camp works for me unless I have this info. And if I have to click over to a registration page to get all the details, I’m giving up.


4.  Keep it simple and clean.

Avoid paragraphs where possible. No one wants to actually read these days; skimming is the best you can hope for. Lists, bullets, graphics. Do not crowd the page with lots of text and links; it looks messy and overwhelming. More Instagram, less newspaper.

Bad Example:

Summer Camps at Awesome Gym are a GREAT way for children to stay active and gain knowledge about healthy choices.  Campers will play and explore in the gym, learn about healthy snack choices, gain social and emotional skills, and much, MUCH more!!!  (Ages:  3-10.  Cost:  $105/5 day camp) Camps are offered 9am-12pm and 1pm to 4pm. Full day option is only available for ages 6-10. We will be closed the week of July 4th.

Good Example:

Our camps help children stay active and healthy all summer long. Gymnastics, lessons about nutrition, and social skill development. [add graphic that illustrates a gymnastics skill, a healthy plate, and a group.]

Weekly cost: $105

Ages (half day): 3-10

Ages (full day): 6-10

Times:  Morning: 9am-12pm, Afternoon: 1pm-4pm, Full day: 9am-4pm.

Dates:  Each week from June 12 – August 18. No camps July 3-7. 


5.  Highlight the value of your camp.

Moms may just need a place to park their kids while they go to work, or they may be looking for a specific enrichment opportunity. Either way, they want their kids to be happy. Post some pictures of happy kids and include a few testimonials from previous campers. Say something about why your STEM/Arts/Dance camp is unique.


6.  Update the design of your website.

Does your site look like it was designed in 1998? There are a gazillion of low-cost website options for small businesses, including Square Space and Wix, where you don't need any technical knowledge. There are a variety of modern templates to choose from; you just need to add text and photos.

I've found that overnight camps tend to have the most attractive websites. This is easy for them. They only have one business: summer camp. But if you want some ideas, take a look at some of them. Another good example is Bull City Farm. It's simple, but it's cute and presents all the information you need in an organized fashion. I interviewed the owner last year for a spotlight article. At the time she was sitting in the school parking lot in order to use their wi-fi because she didn't have high-speed at home. The point is that you can be a farmer with dial-up and still have a great website.


7.  Keep your camp page up to date. Include the year for clarity, and be sure to update the year in all places.

Don’t wait until registration opens in March to update your page from last summer. Early planners looking around in February may wonder if you’re even doing camps this year. A simple content layout could be:

We had a great time at our 2016 summer camps!

[Photos – lots of photos! Happy kids having fun!]

We offer full and half day options all summer.

Be the first to know when 2017 registration opens! Sign up for our newsletter [link].


 8.  Use the web address of your camp page when posting in online directories.

When possible, make sure parents clicking over from a directory listing land on your camp page. If they don't see summer camp information immediately they're liable to exit your site. It's possible that your address will change yearly due to website updates, but it's worth the trouble to go back and correct the links you submit to directories.


For more tips, check out this helpful article:

The 8 Questions Every Website Visitor Wants Answered in 10 Seconds