The textbook definition of the word "interactive" is "two-way." Instead of a monologue, there is a dialogue — a conversation. While you may be used to having conversations in person, over email or on the phone, today there are also thousands of conversations taking place every day online. Because so many conversations take place throughinteractive online media, such as sites like Facebook and Twitter, customers now expect to have the same or similar types of conversations through websites where they transact business. Not all companies have caught up with this new "interactive website" trend. If you are not sure whether your website is static or interactive, this article can help.
Static vs. Interactive
There are two basic types of websites. The first is "static" and the second is "interactive." Both types of websites are alive and well today; however, the second type is now known to be more effective for achieving certain goals, such as building customer loyalty, increasing sales (and repeat sales), troubleshooting product or service issues and facilitating referrals. Understanding the difference between a static and an interactive website will help you determine which kind of website your company has and if changes need to be made.
- Static website. It is easy to spot a static website, because the content rarely (if ever) changes. You won't see RSS feeds, a chat window that invites visitors to start a conversation immediately, new blog entries, social media updates, feedback forms, RSVP invitations for events or other two-way features. The most you might get is an email form that you can fill in with the hopes of someone contacting you later.
- Interactive website. With an interactive website, some or all of the features missing on a static website are now present. The visitor is immediately recognized, engaged, queried or invited to take further action. The content is dynamic and interesting. If you visit an interactive website, you can watch an online video, share your comments on a blog feed, interact via social media or forward the website's address to a friend or colleague.
- Essentially, when you leave a static website you feel like you were alone in a room. When you leave an interactive website, you feel like you've made a new friend.
How to "Go Interactive"
Luckily, making a static website interactive is easier than you may think. One of the easiest ways is to transition to a tool that allows you to build your own website complete with the latest interactive Web features. You can add these features to instantly warm up your online presence and invite visitors to linger, shop and buy.
- Ask for feedback and invite customer-to-customer dialogue. One of the best ways to build loyalty is to seek out your visitors' opinions, ideas and advice. You can add feedback forms, product-rating systems, customer testimonials and other similar features that allow customers to talk with each other right from your website's homepage.
- Add live chat. You can add a pop-up window or bar that invites Web visitors to send an email or engage in a live-chat conversation right away — this is one of the best ways to ensure that if a customer has a question, they will ask rather than browse away and forget to follow up later.
- Run quizzes, surveys, polls, contests and events. Since most people spend a majority of their workdays (and sometimes weekends) online, if it feels like more fun to visit your website and stick around, your visitors are likely to do so. Events, giveaways, contests, surveys, polls and other fun activities are great ways to welcome guests and keep them coming back.
Start Where You Are
If you have a static website now, you don't need to add in every interactive bell and whistle all at once. You can start where you are, adding in one new feature at a time to see how visitors respond and then make adjustments as you go.
About the Author: Tien Hyunh is a web developer and consultant. He recommends if you're about to create a website for your business, to click here for a free trial of a service he's used himself.