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How Annoying is Your Summer Camp Web Site?


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Jan 30, 2008, 1:54 PM

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How Annoying is Your Summer Camp Web Site? Can't Post

By Steve Cony

The more that people use the Internet – and their usage becomes routinized – the more closely we must listen to what they are telling us about our own Web sites. Specifically, what they expect when they land on a site – and, more important, what annoys them. We know more than ever before about these preferences and turnoffs because a tremendous amount of Web user research has been conducted and analyzed.

Let’s concentrate on how to avoid annoyance:

Don’t splash – Web users find a Splash page to be an immediate barrier to speed and productivity when surfing. It sets the tone of how they believe your site will “feel” to them, and it feels slow before even the next click. (Come to think of it, why would the owner of a Web site begin with a page that includes the option to “Skip Intro”?) If it is skip-able, do not include it.

Don’t make noise – Parents often shop for camp while they are at work. They tell us that if a Web site automatically plays music or sound effects, the boss might think they are playing video games on company time. Give visitors to your site the option to hear camp songs, or to listen to the words of a spoken testimonial, but at their discretion – not yours.

Don’t leave home – Users expect to see your logo at the upper left of every page. Wherever they venture on your site, when they click on the logo, they expect to be able to return to Home. Once there, they feel in control and can get to the various pages of your site via the menu.

Don’t get confusing – Separate the sections of your site that are intended for prospective families vs. enrolled families vs. job seekers vs. alumni. The Staff button on your menu for prospective families should lead to a description of your staff, not to a job application form. If viewing certain pages requires a user name and/or password, these should be clearly included on the Current Families menu.

Don’t boast – Users have come to consider Web sites such as those of summer camps and related institutions to be sources of information, not sources of endless promotion. If you imagine that users tend to think of the Web as a library rather than a collection of commercials, you will see that the use of superlatives and other highly promotional approaches does not fit within their primary quest for information. You can most certainly be promotional, but must now do so in more subtle ways. Calling yourself “the best summer camp experience in the country” is out of step with people’s expectations.

Don’t hold back – Make sure to include all the information that you think is desired by a prospective parent. While your video and brochure are vehicles best suited to the broad-based story, your Web site is the place to organize all the details. One more hint: A Web site that does not include fees is incomplete.
Don’t hide – As director or owner, you need to be seen and heard from on your Web site. People are entrusting their most precious possession to you and they want to see a warm and sincere approach, beginning at the top. Make sure that the impression you leave is the opposite of “corporate and secretive.”

You can’t make every sale. But the worst sale to lose is the one that got away because the Web user got frustrated with you -- over things you could have easily changed to provide great customer service at this new and all-important first point of contact.

Steve Cony is a marketing consultant who assists children's camps with the development of strategic plans and the execution of marketing materials. Camp directors may contact him at 914-271-8482.

Visit Steve Cony's website:


(This post was edited by Steve_Cony on Mar 18, 2008, 12:43 PM)


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