I recently read a great article on effective website design and it got me thinking about how important a dynamic, functional website is to your camp. Your website is often the first impression potential clients will have of your facility, and it’s definitely in your interest for that impression to be a good one.
When a person with no camp experience or frame of reference is looking to send their child to summer camp, I am willing to bet that they’ll just google it to find one in their area. And I know that they’ll judge your camp by the only part of it that they’ve seen so far: your website. “What kinds of activities do they have? What kinds of things will my child be taught? Is it led by competent professionals? Is it safe? Can I see photos? Will my child have the best time ever?” You get the idea. If your website is outdated, has incorrect information, is difficult to navigate, or just looks bad, that gives a bit of a bad impression.
I realize that as nonprofits, we struggle with having the capability to hire professionals to build our websites. That’s why the good news is: the simpler your site, the better. Here are a few things I think are important for a good camp website:
- Make sure your contact information is current and exhaustive. Include your address, a good phone number, and definitely an email address which is checked regularly, at the very least. A map to your location is often helpful as well, as you’re probably pretty rural and people need to know how to get there. Green Hill Lake Camp’s “Contact Info” section on their website has numerous phone numbers and email addresses, and special links for prospective staff and donors. It also has a great map of how to get there, plus directions from three different nearby locations! There’s no way you wouldn’t be able to contact them, regardless of your reason for wanting to get in touch.
- Make sure you have a clear menu bar where people can easily find out about your camp, the activities you offer, your camp’s values and how you intend to impart them to your campers, and anything else you think parents should know (I like when a camp includes a “what to/not to bring” list). I think Canadian Adventure Camp has a great menu. It’s very clear, with all the information I’d be looking for if I were interested in checking out their camp.
- Try to put some quality photos up. Photos of kids having fun doing activities at your camp can help a parent picture their child having that same fun. But do make sure that the photos are of a good quality — in my opinion, a blurry or pixelated or too-small photo is worse than having no photo at all. (Of course, make sure none of those pictured children’s parents have asked not to have photos of their child published anywhere.) Camp Arnes has a great rotating slide show banner which remains at the top of their site, no matter which page you’re visiting.
- If your camp uses social media like Facebook or Twitter, have links to those pages so that people coming to your camp can better interact with you. It’s also a good idea to have a blog. Blogging about the goings-on of your camp year-round helps previous campers stay connected and want to return, and it helps those who have never been to get a good picture of what it’s like at your camp. I think Camp Evergreen does a great job of that with their blog, The Green Spot. You can keep your blog really simple — there are some really user-friendly blog sites like wordpress.com, typepad.com, or blogspot.com.
- Have a link on your site which allows visitors to donate to your camp. Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp have a “Donate” link at the top of their web page, which leads to a page detailing all of the ways supporters of their camp can help out.