A webmaster can build the most beautiful website on the planet, brand the site to perfection and offer great content, however if their site is missing key components for success the site is likely to fail or in the least not reach its full potential.
By taking the time to incorporate five “must have” functions into your website you can help ensure a better chance at success for your project
1. Social Integration From Off-Site Sources
If you’re running a website for which you constantly interact with your users using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks you should show those conversations to be carried over to your website. An increasing number of websites in recent months have begun showing Twitter feeds from their accounts while providing Facebook activity streams and other offsite content conversations. By bringing off-site conversation to your website you allow users to create a circle of interaction that extends from on-site conversations to off-site conversations and then back to on-site conversations, a nice little circle of interaction that keeps users returning to your main product (your website).
2. Photo Galleries That Users Actually Want To View
One of my biggest pet peeves when viewing WordPress based websites is the lack of a decent photo gallery. The WordPress gallery isn’t the worst option on the face of the planet but there are better galleries available. When choosing a photo gallery I suggest looking for an HTML5 based option in place of a Java-assisted gallery which iPad and iPhone viewers will be unable to view. Choosing a gallery that allows users to switch between full page views and scrolling can help a gallery stand out while keeping a users on-site for longer periods of time. I often incorporate “embed this” options into my website so users can easily past my photos into their own websites while providing links back to my website (a great SEO technique).
3. Intuitive Website Forms
A simple contact form with “name, email and message” fields is useful if your only contact needs surround customer service issues however more intuitive forms can allow webmasters to obtain additional information from users while generating an instant dialogue with site visitors. For example if you’re website forms direct users to upload images, leave website URLs and provide times and dates for information they are providing you are essentially creating an in-depth conversation with users upon first contact. The more information you can obtain from a user through the use of forms the better conversation you can open up with those users. It’s important to remember that while commenting systems can start a dialogue with site visitors it’s your contact forms that are most likely to generate loyal users since they want to participate more in your websites success.
4. Interactive Commenting System
I have recently changed all of my websites over to the Facebook commenting system, my change came after months of research in which I realized that Facebook commenting drew in new readers at a faster rate than other platforms while generating a higher conversation rate. Because Facebook comments show up on a commenters Facebook feed their Facebook followers have a better chance of converting into visitors. Even if you don’t use Facebook commenting it’s important to choose a system that allows for more interaction than simple commenting. For example using the Disqus system on WordPress allows users to “Like” comments which in turn means they can upvote people they like and ignore other commenters. I personally believe that a commenting system should invoke a sense of camaraderie among site visitors while providing as much interaction as possible.
5. Properly Implemented Share Buttons For Social Media
I hate visiting a website that features 15 different share buttons when three to four buttons will do the trick. In most cases Facebook Like and Twitter Buttons should be used, after that point a webmaster should determine which other buttons will likely convert on their site. For example a business news site will be served well by the LinkedIn button while Reddit users will likely ignore much of your content. On the other hand a site full of offbeat news stories, photos and videos will likely be served well by Reddit, StumbleUpon and Digg buttons.
In my personal experience giving too many share options can cause a reader to feel overwhelmed leading to users abandoning share options all together. If you can’t decide on exactly which buttons to use I suggest testing buttons while monitoring how they convert for your site. If all else fails use AddToAny or another social platform options that will allow for additional share options to pop up only when users hover over or click on a share button option.
Whether you’re choosing to build a site using a website builder or you’re starting your site from scratch without a template you should always examine the functions listed above so you can create communication with your readers while showcasing your content (photos, videos, text) in a way that readers find compelling. Share your content and then convert those shares into conversations if you can accomplish that goal you should witness some increased success for your web property.