By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
CROWLEY, Texas — There are a plethora of resources campgrounds and RV dealers can turn to for help in developing a website or enhancing their social marketing. But, few have the same level of well-rounded experience as TXAD Internet.
Not only does the company create, design and build websites, they host, maintain and enhance them with up-to-date features and technological advances. Plus, the staff can help RV-related businesses set up blogs and social media venues, too.
“We have one of our professional writers contact park staff directly to get information they can use to assemble quality copy for each blog post,” said Chris Brailsford, TXAD Internet director of websites and senior web developer. “The client can post it directly to their blog, or we can do it for them.”
Customers who would love to have a blog as a way to connect with customers, but aren’t sure how to set one up, can also get help from TXAD Internet. Brailsford’s team will either set up a blog on their own website, if the functionality is built into the framework of their site. Or, they can set up a separate blogging platform, such as WordPress, and redirect all blog posts and links back to the park’s website.
TXAD Internet has a solid reputation working with campgrounds and RV parks, but they also work with other businesses as well.
“Campgrounds are a niche category for us because we often help them design their print advertising and direct mail as well,” said Brailsford. “But, we have worked with restaurants, associations, even a dog training website. In fact, we just started working with an RV dealer who called us to help start a website for the RV park they are opening next door.”
The firm’s sister company, AGS, actually designs and produces that type of marketing. But by working together, AGS and TXAD Internet can deliver a one-two punch to bring professionally developed print marketing online in a way that the message is seamless between platforms.
The TXAD Internet staff is sophisticated enough to work with just about any content management system an RV park or dealership uses in order to bring that information to the web.
“Whether it’s managing campsite reservations or dealership inventory, there needs to be a way to connect to the client’s database, and deliver the data to the Internet,” said Brailsford.
The firm can integrate almost every type of reservations software that campgrounds use. And the staff can make recommendations to campgrounds looking to bring their reservations system online — something he said is becoming an absolute necessity among campers.
Brailsford said one of the easier platforms to integrate is Campground Manager and Book Your Site, the offline/online services provided by Mission Management Information Systems, a preferred supplier for the Texas Association of Campground Owners.
An online system can be as simple as determining that there are X number of campsites still available and then reduce the inventory by however many sites the customer wishes to reserve and actually assigning a spot on arrival, he explained. Or, it can be as complex as allowing customers to see available sites on a map and select the ones they wish to reserve. Either way, online reservations are an expected service among busy families, he noted.
“I have parks tell me all the time they are losing reservations because the customer will fill out a web form at night, but when the staff calls them the next day to confirm, they learn the family made a reservation elsewhere just because they could,” said Brailsford.
The first shortcoming is the continued use of Adobe Flash elements on their webpages. Perhaps it is Flash banners or, worse, a Flash landing page — either way, it is detrimental to the company.
“Flash is really outdated technology,” he explained. “It was revolutionary at the time and many businesses started incorporating it into their websites. But, today, with everything going mobile, not only is Flash ineffective, it can harm a company to even have it on their websites.”
Flash content cannot be display on Apple’s mobile operating system, which means it can’t be seen on iPhones or iPads. The new Android phones aren’t supporting Flash either.
What’s that mean? The Flash content can’t be seen and, in some cases where companies create Flash intros to their websites, people can’t even access their sites because they can’t get past Flash movie playing on the landing page, he explained.
Flash-based navigation doesn’t work on mobile platforms, and Google may not even catalog the content of a Flash site because it typically can’t see the content unless it includes an additional — and redundant — HTML page, said Brailsford.
“Flash is not very mobile friendly. It’s a beast that was built years ago before search engine optimization became so critical,” he added. “It’s very difficult to update. The best thing to do is to eliminate it entirely from the website.”
Sometimes that’s easier said than done because many RV parks and businesses had their websites set up years ago by companies that are no longer in business, or by someone who stayed at the RV park for a while.
“Businesses who don’t have an up-to-date site face a huge problem,” said Brailsford. “They often wonder why their sites don’t show up when searching for RV parks in their city. It’s because the website has never been updated with fresh content. So, Google doesn’t think its relevant.
“Or, it could be that the website is competing with other companies that have been around for a decade that are rich with content and credible links,” he added. “Either way, outdated websites face a daunting challenge to attract and serve customers.”
Another issue involves domain names — an absolutely critical company asset — which causes confusion among some customers. Some people have a hard time understanding the difference between a domain name and web hosting.
“Just because someone has a domain name, like www.myrvpark.com, doesn’t mean they have a web host. A host houses all the files contained within a website, and serves them over the Internet for display on someone’s computer or mobile device,” said Brailsford.
“Think of it as the difference between a house and an address. A domain is similar to the address of your house. It is what you give to people so they know how to send things to you,” he explained. “A house is where you live. It’s where all your stuff is stored. The house and the address must be connected for everything to work. It’s the same way with a domain name and a hosting service.”
People can move into a different house. But, unless they update their address with the post office, they won’t receive any mail, he added. The same is true when they change hosting providers. They must be able to tell the domain registry where to send traffic to the site.
And it is absolutely essential that a business own and control its own domain name, said Brailsford. Think of it as the title to a house.
“Sometimes we encounter situations where a customer, friend or relative bought the domain for the business, and then they disappear,” he explained. “Consequently, the business can’t move their website until they have access to that domain.”
Or, the firm may have paid for a 10-year registration many years ago. When the domain comes up for renewal, they have no idea how to access the domain to pay for it. As a result, the website is suddenly shut off.
When TXAD Internet sets up a new domain on behalf of the client, they are given all the usernames and passwords required to control and maintain their domain name.
Choice of services
- Build and design a website — Whether building a site from scratch or tweaking an existing site, the staff can create a professional, functional website for any company.
- Host a website — Firms that don’t need a new website can switch to a different host to save money or just to work with more responsive partners
- Maintain a site — Keep the site functional and the code looking good
“Our service includes unlimited changes to content built into the price so we don’t nickel and dime customers for every little thing they need done to their site,” said Brailsford. “Some customers just change their websites to upload new rates once a year, while others are having us update a PDF on the site every two days to reflect new activities being planned. The price is the same either way.”
The turnaround time for changes is generally two to three days, he explained. Requests go into a queue and it could be finished in as little as a few hours, depending upon the amount of tickets working their way through the system.
Sometimes the website’s structure might need to be changed, such as adding a page or eliminating a sidebar. Those charges do incur a reasonable additional costs, said Brailsford, simply because some tweaks can take a lot of time to accomplish.
“We try to build websites so that they deploy the most up-to-date technology and modern features,” he added. “But, we engage forward thinking when building them to try to anticipate changes that may need to be made years from now.”
For example, the explosion of mobile devices means that TXAD Internet tries to make all their websites responsive to the device being used to access the site. Whether it is a 24-inch monitor from a computer work station or a six-inch screen on a smartphone, the layout and design must “respond” to whatever device is being used.
“Responsive technology can’t be an afterthought,” he added. “Websites must be built today so they are mobile friendly.”
Brailsford said he heard of new technology that will allow people to view text displays on their watch, and then reply with their voice. Technology is changing rapidly and businesses need to stay abreast of it to reach as many customers as they can, he added.
A website is unique for every business
Brailsford said that some companies designing websites use a lot of stock elements, such as photographs, over and over again. The result is that one campgrounds website may look strikingly similar to another, and that’s not a good thing unless the business is part of a chain.
“We don’t use a cookie cutter approach in building our sites so that everything looks the same,” he said. “We strive to make sure everything is customized for each client so it reflects their tastes, their values and their market. We want our clients to stand above others in their market.”
Companies interested in getting some advice on how to build or improve their websites, can contact Brailsford at 877.518.1989 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.