The prime function for a venue's website within the visitor experience paradigm is to communicate marketing and pre trip planning material.
This recognises that the site is the first port of call for most visitors who may have little or no appreciation in relation to the product and experiences on offer.
In responding to this user experience, desktop websites traditionally developed a very "flat" organisational structure wherein multiple themes, propositions and points of connection were presented to users in complex and detailed homepage browsing environments.
This traditional "flat" structural approach has needed to be modified to align modern websites with the needs of responsive web layouts. These naturally favour a more heirachical, drill down design model.
The tension between these two structural approaches – flat for maximum points of initial connection vs heirachical as required for presentation on mobile devices remains an active challenge for creating any responsive website.
The widespread uptake of responsive designs to underpin the delivery of the main host domain web product has aligned with an increased appreciation of the roll that sub domains can play in the delivery of the core website content.
Designing user experiences that reformat smoothly across desktop, tablet and phones is a major challenge that has to some extent been masked by the widespread availability of the responsive themes in the three content management system (CMS) platforms.
We often see it in action however in the server side delay that can occur in building the appropriate page layout for delivery to the user. The extent of this problem can vary according to whether or not a site is hosted on a premium site server or on a more economical option.
The role of subdomains ...
This is where sub domains come into the picture. They allow for a separate user experience to be developed outside of, yet closely integrated with, the main CMS site.
We see this most commonly in local Government websites where the detailed mapping platform needed to allow people to enquire about a given piece of property or other zoning matter sits outside of the CMS platform. If you look at the URL when visiting this mapping resource you'll typically see the subdomain link equivalent to "mapping.councildomain.com" in place.
Webapps and subdomains ...
Using subdomains as an active part of the management approach to develop the core web platform for a location holds out some very significant strategic advantages.
The first thing is to lighten the load on what is required of the CMS itself. Instead of trying load additional functionality onto what is already a seriously challenged platform, it is possible to set up customised bespoke satellite webapps to deliver key functional operations like bookings for tours and accommodation.
This means that an optimal outcome using a bespoke digital solution can be separately explored and delivered for this resource rather than simply relying on such prepackaged services as are delivered in "shopping cart" CMS themes as are widely available.
Similarly in the case of user content in the form of maps and trailnotes, webapps using static web pages and taking advantage of adaptive rather than responsive designs (whereby custom designs for both phone and tablet are created separately) become a very simple option to employ.
Digital ecosystems vs monocultures
The essence underlying this approach also recognises that a multi-faceted digital ecosystem model using an "array" of bespoke connected digital product solutions rather than a monolithic central website archive is inherently a more adaptable and reliable option in times of rapid technological change. By having digital compartments in place, it is possible to undertake innovation and adaptation in one area of the web architecture while bulkheading off other system components from development costs associated with employing this innovation.