Transforming A Site From Good To Excellent
One of the challenges of moving a web site up from good to excellent is transforming it from just a bunch of web pages and graphics to an interactive experience. Another term for this is community - a place where people can come to communicate with others. The very best web sites have mastered this transformation, thus attracting return visitors again and again.
The whole point of a web site is to communicate ideas and concepts to other people. If you are just putting up pages and graphics, then you are performing half of a communication. You are telling people what you think, want, desire or need.
The other half of communication is listening. That's why merely adding an email form (or link) and a guestbook go a long way to improve your visitor's experience with your web site. You are giving them the opportunity to tell you what's on their mind. If you also take the time to answer their messages and perhaps even get involved in an online communication - then you may very well have a friend for life.
You can add even more value (and get a few more visitors as well) by adding a "tell-a-friend" capability to your site. This adds a third and very interesting (although seemingly trivial) element to your site: the ability to add others to the communication.
Look at it this way. Someone surfed to your site and actually found something that was interesting. That's actually not an incredibly common occurrence on the internet (consider how many stupid, boring or just plain silly sites you've visited). Okay, they've found something interesting, perhaps very interesting, and they want to tell someone. You would be very wise to give them this capability. This is not just because it gains you another visitor, but it makes people feel better. Why? Because people like to share good experiences with each other.
Another good reason to moderate the board is it puts you in control, which is where you should be. It's your board and naturally conversations should be about subjects in which you are interested. The purpose of the board is to improve your site and your visitor experience - not ruin their good time.
Another great interactive feature which is not so obvious is running an awards program. What this accomplishes is simple: you are inviting people to submit their sites to you for review. By giving them the opportunity to apply for the award you are increasing the value of your site to them, and improving your chances of getting them back for more.
Perhaps one of the very best interactive features is hosting your own custom made e-cards. These are extremely popular and greatly improve your visitors experience on your site. Better yet, they give your visitors an opportunity to communicate (by sending cards) with their friends - and their friends may visit your site also.
By adding these and other features, you are increasing your value to people who visit your site. If there is one thing that people like to do (and must do to survive well) it's communicate. By giving people many different ways to communicate, you are making it more likely that they will visit your site, stick around, and recommend it to their friends.
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