Interactivity is what makes the web such a powerful medium and can be one of the most effective ways of engaging your visitors. Call it a form of online ‘
bonding’. Just as importantly, having your visitors contribute is an ideal way to produce new content on a regular basis. Here are some ideas on how to make your website more interactive. I illustrate some of the ideas with real-life examples I’ve used in my cartoon website,
Sev Wide Web.
People like to belong. You can offer this kind of experience by having them join a ‘
club’ of some sort, along with certain privileges that come with membership. This may take the form of an email newsletter, entrance to an exclusive part of your site or just to be part of your online community.
An entertaining way to involve users is to offer puzzles, quizzes, contests or trivia games. Having them tie into your website’s topic of interest is recommended.
Cartoon caption contests are the backbone of my cartoon website Sev Wide Web, running 3 weekly contests at contests.sev.com.au. Receiving hundreds (or sometimes thousands when I draw Lord of the Rings parodies) of submissions each week is a great source of content but reading all the entries proved an arduous chore. I was saved from early insanity when I created Ratsy, a punchline
Offer surveys, feedback forms, questionnaires and always a link to a ‘
contact us‘ page. User feedback is very important to maintaining and improving your site. I recommend you don’t actually display your email address anywhere as it will inevitably be spidered by spam companies.
If you can build a community around your website, half your battle is won. This is achieved with online forums. Online communities are self-maintaining organisms – they visit your website regularly, they produce their own content, friendships are formed all within the context of your website. In these situations, it’s a case of “come for the content, stay for the community”.
The Sev Forums have been a revelation for me. Starting out as the Discussion Board, it quickly grew in popularity to the point where we had to split it into two forums, adding a new Ideas Board where sci-fi fans could suggest what shows and movies they’d like to see parodied next (another wonderful source of new content). The Discussion Board continue to grow out of control until it was split again, adding a new Sevillian Board. Most importantly, a strong-knit community (called ‘
Give the visitors an opportunity to ask questions. This can be handled in feedback forms (or even better, in your discussion forum), but a help desk designed specifically for that purpose encourages more interaction. A help desk is a good place to post your
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).
You want to make navigation as easy and intuitive as possible – a search form on each of your pages gives the user a one-click option to any part of your site they’re looking for (in theory). It also encourages the visitor to actively interact with your site rather than more passive hyperlinking.