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interactive

Considering an interactive website?

Having an effective interactive website is up-to-date, interesting and easy to set up but can be very time consuming, so why consider making your website interactive?

  1. it gives you fresh content which is great for SEO and getting repeat visitors
  2. you can get input and feedback from customers and visitors which can help you improve your business
  3. you can develop relationships which is good for you as a human being, puts a personal feel to your business and develops a group of people who trust you and may just recommend you
  4. build trust and credibility in you and your business by sharing information and encouraging a community
  5. it makes your site interesting and therefore gives people a reason to come back
  6. you can centralise information rather than promote various online profiles – for instance, if I can read your Tweets on your site instead of logging into Twitter I stay on your site for longer
  7. it can be an easy way to announce business news (new products, extended hours, more articles on the site, etc)
  8. you never know why you may learn from the people who decide to interact on your site – use the internet opportunities to positive effect
  9. it will certainly appeal to some groups of people and is unlikely to offend or upset other people
  10. it puts you into the ‘up-to-date’ minority, showing you have an interest inner technology and advancing your business
  11. it shows you are interested in other people and can accept their ideas

 

Making your website interactive

While I don’t think making your website interactive is necessary for a successful website, it can be very effective for a number of reasons (and I guess that will be the next post in this series!)

If you are not familiar with the online world, making an interactive website may sound a bit overwhelming and very technical – but hopefully you’re brave enough to have kept reading anyway!

Making your website more interactive can be done in a number of ways and most of them are actually quite easy to add and run.

What is harder is maintaining the interactivity – people will only interact with you if you are seen to be willing to interact regularly and if you give something interesting enough to interact with.

So if you are adding interactive features to your site, I would suggest adding one feature at a time so you can establish it before learning the next one – spreading yourself too thin won’t help your business in the long run.

Making your site interactive can be done by:

  1. adding a blog and allowing comments – software is easy to use but it takes time to think of topics and prepare the content
  2. adding a Twitter feed – there are a few ways to do this but it effectively means people can read your tweets on your website. There is no work to run the feed but managing your Twitter account can take time
  3. adding a Facebook feed – again, your Facebook updates can be read live on your site for little effort other than keeping your Facebook page up-to-date
  4. other social media feeds can also be placed on your site
  5. adding a ticket system so people can not only tell you about issues but track progress simply. This is most commonly used for IT suppliers such as web hosts and software providers
  6. introducing a discussion forum can generate a lot of interest but also requires a lot of time and effort to get enough people involved to make it work, and then maintain it in an appropriate fashion
  7. add some live chat features so people can ask questions immediately
  8. feedback forms and rating systems allow people to give you input and are probably has one of the lowest time requirements in this list
  9. various places offer the means of adding surveys, poll and quizzes that can be purely for fun, to educate or to gain information for your planning. Remember to make the content and the wording appropriate, relevant and clear
  10. if you take appointments or run events, consider adding an online booking system – this will probably save you time as well as making it easier for people to book and change appointments. If the system updates a viewable calendar and can confirm times (rather than just accepting requests), it does make your site interactive.
  11. add a wiki or other shared documents to your site if you are doing research or gathering community input
Do you have any other suggestions for making a website interactive? What have you enjoyed on other sites?

Must your website be interactive?

In a series of 10 posts, we have looked at the steps required to get your business online. Hopefully you’ve seen that getting a website up doesn’t have to be hard or very expensive, and that it can provide a lot of value to your business.

Up to a few years ago, that would be all you’d have to do to get a website up and running – with good content and links, it would probably have done quite well.

Now you will hear that people have higher expectations and that static (i.e. simple web pages that are one way only) sites are not effective.

There is an incredible number of websites out there now so competing against them all probably does need an edge such as an interactive site (where others can provide content on your site). However, you will not be competing against all those sites.

If you have been running business for a while without a website, you probably don’t need thousands of visitors to your site every week to survive. Many service based businesses also don’t need large amounts of traffic as they just need localised traffic.

While an interactive site may be more interesting and may do better than an equivalent static site, it is okay to have a static site. Here are some of my thoughts on static vs interactive sites:

  1. a static site is fine for people needing basic information about your site (e.g. a friend referred me and I need to find your phone number)
  2. a static site is better than an interactive site that is not maintained and looks rushed or empty, so if you don’t have the time or expertise to do an interactive site a static site is still valid option
  3. content is king – having quality, relevant content is critical; keeping it updated and fresh will go a long way to making your site successful
  4. know the purpose of your site and the preferences of your audience – both of these answers will influence the need of more interactivity
  5. after you’ve had a static site for a while, built up some traffic and back links and have an idea of what you’re doing, you can slowly introduce some interactivity – it doesn’t have to be done all at once nor at the start of your site
  6. making your site interactive actually isn’t very hard – making it work well is time consuming and can be challenging
So what do you think – does your website need to be interactive? Do you think all sites should be adding interactive features?