How to Make Your Web Site Come to
Life: Tips for Making Your Pages Interactive
by Donald Nelson
My first web site was nothing more than a brochure that was transformed into an HTML
document and installed on the web. Since then I have learned that web pages can do a lot
more than printed brochures, because they can offer several different ways to involve
the visitors. Here are some of the ways that I use to bring my sites to life.
The first and most obvious kind of interactivity is to have a way in which someone can
send you a message or contact you. You can do this by putting your e-mail address as a
"clickable" link on your web pages. This is normally enough, but sometimes
people are not surfing on their own computers and can't click on the mail link because
they don't have an e-mail program on that particular computer. The answer is to put
a contact form on the web site. This allows anyone to contact you, no
matter where they are surfing. Also, as far as I can see, the contact form seems to get
more responses than a simple "mailto" link, perhaps because it requires so
little effort to complete.
The form can be activated by a CGI script, or if you are using Front Page, through the
Front Page extensions. If you are unable to use either of these methods then you can get
free form processing on a third-party server (such as bravenet.com), but
you will have to put up with advertisements or pay a fee to have them removed.
Another way you can involve your readers on a regular basis is to offer a newsletter
related to your site. The newsletter or e-zine in its simplest form can be nothing more
than an update of new features on your web site. Or you can be more
ambitious and write an article on themes related to your web site.
For example, if your web site represents your bicycle shop, your newsletter could contain
articles about cycling. Explain the scope of your newsletter with an announcement on your
web site: "Get updates and information related to the themes of our website in a free
e-mail newsletter" followed by a sign-up form where the people can sign up for the
newsletter. In your newsletter provide links to your web site, and your products or
services order pages. I find that whenever I send out a newsletter, traffic on the website
increases as do orders for my products. Also provide information on how people can
subscribe and unsubscribe, and tell people to forward the newsletter to friends and people
who might be interested in your website.
You can keep people coming back to your site by using a bulletin board
or online forum. The beauty of the bulletin board is that your visitors
create your content. However, in order for this to work you must have enough traffic. If
you have a Britney Spears fan site, then it should be no problem to get your bulletin
board up and running. If your site doesn't have a strong flow of visitors there is still a
way in which you can use a bulletin board. Hold a special forum. Announce, on your
site and in your newsletter, a specific period in which there will be a discussion on a
topic: "Visit our special forum on Racing Bicycles which will be held from September
1-5. Participating in the discussion will be the webmaster and his staff of racing
experts". This is a good way to tie together your newsletter and your bulletin board
to sustain interest in your site.
In order to have a bulletin board you may have to install a script on your site.
Or perhaps your hosting firm has a pre-installed bulletin board script. You can get
bulletin board scripts for free or for a small fee. If you are not able to install a
bulletin board once again you can get one hosted on another server for free (with
advertisements) or for a monthly fee (without advertisements).
Finally, here is another idea on how to draw your visitors into the site. You're an
expert on something, that's why you have your website! Start a questions
and answers column on the site let your web visitors send in their questions and
you and or your team of experts can give the answers. Award a prize to the person who
sends in the best question of the month. It will help you to generate some useful and new
content for your site and also let you know what your web visitors are thinking.
Taking this further, you can offer free advice on a one-to-one basis
for visitors who have questions related to your product or service. Put a form on your web
site. It can be right next to your product's order button. Give the people a chance to
either order your product or ask for more information. By offering good advice you will
win the confidence of your web visitors, some of whom will eventually go on to purchase
your products or services.
Donald Nelson is a web developer, editor and social worker. He has been promoting web
sites since 1995 and now runs A1-Optimization ( http://www.a1-optimization.com
) a company that provides low-cost search engine optimization and submission services. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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