Hopefully you know why camp websites are important, and you have an awesome website that’s bringing in lots of campers and that parents are raving about. If so, you’re doing great. If that’s not the case for you, or if you want to do even better online, it may be time to take a step back and look at an important piece of the puzzle: your website’s flow — the user’s journey.
Really great websites don’t just lay out all the information. Instead, they’re planned, they’re intentional, and they take users on a specific journey. If done correctly, your website can act as another branch of customer service.
Pinpoint Your User
Who’s using your website? Is it campers or parents themselves? Is it a mom or a dad? Where are they coming from?
These are all important questions to ask before you set out creating your user’s journey. Generic camp research can give you a few answers: according to experts, moms make the decisions about summer camps. That means generally parents will use your website more, and your target audience is probably women between the ages of 30 and 45.
Moms make the decisions about summer camps. And a lot of times, especially if a product centers on kids, family or home, moms make those decisions. So moms are the target demographic.
— Christine M. Szekeres, marketing and development manager at SAMBICA
However, for a camp focused mainly on teens, it may be different. Teens are more independent. They want to make their own decisions. For your specific camp, it may be better to focus on a teen’s journey through your website.
Regardless if they’re moms or teens, where are they coming from? That’s where Google Analytics comes in. Analytics can tell you where your users are coming from physically and also where they’re coming from on the web. If you read into the data, it can also help you identify more about who your users are.
If Google Analytics says that 20 percent of your website is coming from Facebook, that 20 percent probably isn’t teens because teens aren’t currently as active on Facebook. If it says 20 percent is coming from Twitter, well, that’s probably the younger generation.
If you install Analytics on your website and monitor it while you’re brainstorming a new journey, you can get good information about who your users are.
Do Some Research
To create a great user’s journey, you need to know what information your target audience is looking for along the way. There are a few ways to do this.
Focus Groups/Individual Interviews/Surveys
Reach out and talk to your parents! Even the ones who chose not to attend your camp. Explain that you’re looking to improve your online experience and ask if they’d be willing to answer a few questions. If they say yes, try asking questions such as:
- What did you find on our website that you were looking for?
- Is there anything you were hoping to find but didn’t?
- Was anything difficult to reach through the website?
- Did we answer all the questions you had on our website?
- If not, what questions did you have?
- As a mom (or teen or dad or whomever you’re asking), what do you want to see on a camp’s home page?
CrazyEgg/Mouseflow/Others Like Them
CrazyEgg, Mouseflow, and other tools like them are great for getting a better grasp on your website. These programs will track actual users going through your website and show you where users are clicking, how far they’re scrolling, and more. Mouseflow will even do a session replay which allows you to sit back and watch exactly what your user did on each page they visited. Freaky incredible technology. (But seriously, watch their demo.)
Understanding your user’s behavior is another great aspect of Google Analytics. If you look at the data, it will tell you how many pages users are visiting per session, how long they’re staying on each page, what pages they’re visiting, and more. In fact, Google Analytics will even create a chart showing you which pages lead to which pages.
Plan Your Home Page
Your home page is an important first step of your website. Home pages have the most authority with Google, and more than likely, it’s the most visited page of your website. Your home page should immediately draw people in and start them on a journey that they don’t want to hop off of.
So what do you put on the home page? Here’s where you put the information you’ve been gathering to use. What do parents want to see and know? That’s what should go on your home page, whether it’s through sections of contents or through links to interior pages.
You want to structure this content appropriately. Think about what parents will see in their first five seconds at looking at your website. Before they scroll. That’s where you have to draw them in. Consider establishing your credibility (through tenure or accreditations) and using eye-catching visuals with a strong CTA (call to action — for example “Sign Up Today!”) as your first thing on the page under the header and the menu.
From there, make sure your content is organized and easy to follow. What’s next important? Maybe two buttons, one for “New Parents” and one for “Returning Parents,” each with a brief introduction to what they’re getting. For example, “New Parents” could follow the text: “Considering your first summer at XYZ Camp? We can’t wait to meet you! Continue on to find more information about our activities, our staff, and frequently asked questions.”
Even though you’ve laid it out right there, some people may not have been tempted enough to click yet. Make sure you include some additional important information below. Do most of your parents want to see schedules? Do they want to see staff members? Whatever they’re looking for, put it on the front page.
P.S. Throwing some changing testimonials on your home page is always a great idea!
Map Your Site
After you’ve done your research and created your home page, now it’s time to map out your site. What individual pages do you want to have? Should they be in the menu or only be available on certain pages? Now’s the time to really think through the journey.
First, you want to go through your home page and look at the buttons you’ve created. For example, earlier I mentioned button for “New Parents” and “Returning Parents.” Make sure you make a list of all those buttons and plan what they’ll link to. Create interior pages based on those.
After you’ve got that list, it’s time to think about the menu. Take all of the information you’ve gathered, look at other camp sites, and think about a clear journey for your user. What will be easy and efficient for her (or him)?
Though there are several ways of doing it, I learned to plan my sitemaps using a Google Sheet. When I plan a sitemap, it looks like this:
Here’s the debrief:
- .XYZ Picture: Logo
- This is helpeful if you manage more than one website. If not, you don’t really need this part in your sitemap.
- Gray Cells
- Here you’ll find things that need to go in the header, not necessarily the menu. I want social media links and a link to “Register Now” to be on every page, so it needs to be in the header.
- Blue Cells
- The blue cells are “Parents.” They’re the only things you’ll originally see when you see the menu. Think of them as the categories. People will hover over them to see the options beneath.
- At the company where I worked, generally, the blue words were not actually pages. If clicked, they linked to the first page underneath them. I think that’s good practice, but you don’t have to do it that way. You can make them pages if you want. Just whatever you do, keep it consistent.
- White Cells
- The white cells are “Children.” These come under the parents but expand upon the category.
- Colored Words
- The blue and green words are pairs. Though they are under different categories, they link to the same page. So “Our Staff” and “Meet the Staff” may be found under different categories, but they go to one staff page.
- This is completely okay to do, but you don’t have to!
With that explained, there are a few other general things to keep in mind while making your menu.
Don’t have too many parents or too many children. Remember, you can always link from an interior page and not necessarily from the menu. When you have too many parents or too many children, things get complicated (especially on a mobile device).
“Grandchildren” do exist, but I don’t recommend using them. “Grandchildren” go underneath children and help divide them into even smaller categories. Generally, it clogs up your menu too much, and you can just link from interior pages. However, if they think they’re right for you, you can put them in the sitemap (I recommend gray italics if you’re following my example).
In the words of Stephen Covey, “Begin with the end in mind.” Your ultimate goal of your website is probably to get people to register. Right under that, you want to provide information. What’s going to get people to do that? Plan your map accordingly.
If you’d like access to my sample spreadsheet, email me at email@example.com.