Website Options: Responsive Design, HTML 5, Mobile Sites,…BAH!

It is probably safe to say that very, VERY few camping professionals got into their positions with the hopes of spending a good portion of their time updating social media and websites.

We are in our jobs for different reasons.  Like kids.  And families.  And leadership potential.  And making memories.  And nature.  And a whole host of other reasons.

But many of us have become the people responsible for maintaining camp websites.  And recently we’ve seen all sorts of new terms being thrown around the internet.  People are saying how we need to switch to being mobile responsive, or have a separate mobile site, and then they start talking about PHP and CSS and HTML…and we are happy that we understand enough about our website to add basic content.

This article hopes to take a little of the mystery out of a few terms that are creeping up, and give you some tips for keeping your website current and helpful to your client base.  I’ll try not to use too many nerdy computer terms.

Let’s get down to it:

What is responsive design?

Alright.  Responsive design, basically, means that you’re creating a website that can change the way it looks based on the device someone is using.  So it shows up differently on a laptop than it does on a smart phone.  Basically.  Everyone is talking right now about how you need to switch to responsive design; don’t panic.  Yes, responsive design is going to be important in the future.  And if you are already doing a switchover, you should make sure it is mobile responsive, but otherwise you can probably let your site be.

Why?

Well, even sites that aren’t mobile responsive show up on other devices.  They just look different.  And quite honestly, they often look better without the responsive design.  Responsive design is still a new thing, so all the kinks haven’t been worked out.  If you wait a little while, you can probably make the switch after more bugs have been found and have less trouble in the process.

Wondering how your site looks across devices (maybe to decide whether you need to switch over)?  Go to this website, it will show you briefly what people are likely to see.

What is a mobile site?

A mobile site is a completely separate website created for the specific purpose of being cell-phone friendly.  So if someone using a cell goes to your website, they will actually go to your mobile site and see everything set up that way.  Usually mobile sites have fewer menu items, smaller graphics, less overall content, and are generally designed with the realization that people on phones need to see the most important information and that’s about it.  Too much information, or poorly aligned graphics and copy, will make it hard to navigate on a phone.

Generally, this is now a bad option for campsites.  Why?  Well, this is basically what the mobile responsive design is trying to do.  And mobile responsive requires no extra work, where a mobile site doubles the amount of effort.  With a mobile site, you have two relatively independent sites you have to keep up with.  So it is probably best to skip the mobile site and get mobile responsive, or wait it out.  There are, obviously, exceptions.

What is HTML 5?

The good news about HTML 5 is that you have to know almost nothing about it.

You know all the computer code that is required to make your site work?  All the numbers, letters, and symbols that are a completely different language?  Well, HTML 5 is the upgrade.  The newest.  The best.

Think of it as Blue Ray.  You don’t technically need to buy a blue ray player yet, a DVD player technically works, but pretty soon you will only be able to buy Blue Rays in the store and your DVD player will slowly become unusable.

So when you are making changes, especially if you are doing a site overhaul or theme upgrade, make sure you get a Blue Ray player (HTML5).  You don’t have to understand it.  Just know that it has to exist.

 

Some final tips for making your websites great:

  1. Keep it updated.  This is the single, best way to keep your website looking good and functioning well.
  2. Use SEO.  While this looks different with the changes Google has made, it is still important.  A future article will address the basics.
  3. Have an expert.  Or at least a non-amateur. You don’t need a full-time, part-time, or even consistent expert on hand.  That just isn’t practical.  But you do need to have someone who understands your website, it’s platform, and your hosting site, available to do occasional updates or fixes when something goes over your head.  It will save you a ton of stress, time, and in the end, money.  Not sure where to start with this?  Give me a shout and we can chat and I’ll work to find you someone (I have a few great connections).  There are people who you can afford.  I promise.

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