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Examples of possible interactive features on your website:

An effective website is not like a brochure, it is more like a conversation. And in a conversation, if one person does all the talking, the other quickly becomes bored. If your website provides no opportunity for your visitors to interact with it, they'll feel uninvolved and leave. Here are some examples of interactive features you could have on your site to increase its "stickiness" and encourage repeat visits:

 

Feedback forms to gather information

You can provide "forms" of varying designs to give people a chance to send you feedback about your site or to provide you with information.
They can type in comments or just click on "radio buttons" or "check-boxes" to make their selection from various options you present to them.

See an example

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Survey/polls

Like feedback forms, used to gather information. The difference is they usually are limited to one or a few questions. People make their selection, submit the form and then are taken to another page where they see the current results (automatically updated) of the poll/survey.

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Automatic subscribe/unsubscribe to a mailing list

This can be used to allow people to, for example, subscribe to your newsletter or get details of your products. Of course, it builds a mailing list. Be careful to have a privacy statement (and stick to it!).

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Bulletin boards/ discussion forums

These are in essence places where people can place messages, ask questions and reply to other contributors on line. We use a very sophisticated system that includes chat room facilities (see below), automatic registration and password options, automatic email notification of new messages and many other refinements.

These forums can be completely open or completely private. They can be valuable for customer service and relationship management, eg assign a member of staff to answer customers' or prospects' questions on a board dealing with certain products or services. This also builds up a fund of valuable "frequently asked questions" which can save staff time.

A "Chat Room" is a web page similar to a bulletin board (people type in messages) but these appear instantly on screen, and other people "in the chat room" answer immediately. Commonly these work best when set times are arranged when it is known that there will be someone in the Chat Room, eg an expert, to answer questions etc.

See an example (opens new window, close to return)

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Guestbook/classified advertisement system

A type of bulletin board where visitors may upload their own comments (hopefully positive) about your site, thereby providing an attractive feature (people love reading other people's opinions, and will often use a guest book as a shortcut to seeing whether your site is worth their visit).
Apart from the usefulness of the comments (although forms are the best way to gather more sophisticated, detailed information) it allows others to see the hopefully positive remarks and encourages them to add their own and explore the site further.

The same program can be reformulated to provide a classified ad system, where people can post items they wish to sell or buy (subject to the rules you set). It could be password protected, or subject to site-owner's approval, so that a charge could be made. This can be a feature that attracts a lot of traffic to your site, and/or provides a service to your clients.

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Password protected private areas

What it says, and obviously can be used for a variety of reasons. The protection can be of differing degrees of security and created in different ways, with corresponding differences in implementation costs. It also depends on your server/ISP factors.

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Self-selected FAQs

A searchable database of frequently asked questions (FAQs) online can save valuable staff time. Bulletin boards (see above) can become a valuable source of information for a separate FAQ section, as well as being a good resource for customers in their own right.

We can provide a facility where people select the questions they are interested in from a list, and the replies to those questions are then automatically assembled in a new page for the person choosing to read.
A more sophisticated alternative provides the option of selecting questions, viewing the answers, and choosing to have all or any of them emailed to the viewer's address. If their question is not covered, viewers can submit it directly to the site via a form, receiving an automatic acknowledgement online. The website owner can choose to have the answer he provides emailed to the questioner and automatically added to the stock of FAQs online.
Questions and answers can be simply uploaded from an ordinary web browser by a non-technical person in your company, and the program will do the rest. This cuts maintenance costs and means you can easily keep things up to date.
And FAQs are a great marketing tool, too!

See an example (opens new window, close to return)

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Site search engine

This is absolutely essential. Research has shown 50% of your site's visitors will use a "search this site" facility (if you have one!) to find what they want rather than use the navigation system.
Site searches can be run internally or outsourced very cheaply with weekly reports provided.

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Interactive games/puzzles

Basically used as part of an overall marketing mix to attract people to your site. There are many of these games freely available on the web, and better ones that can be purchased for use on your site very cheaply. Some can be tailored with your brand identity.

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Referral service

You can get people to refer their friends to your site (or an item of interest on it) by integrating a simple facility that either generates an email containing the site or page URL (address) or emails the complete page to their friend. All people have to do is fill in their own and their friend's addresses. Apart from boosting your traffic, this also generates a mailing list.

See an example

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Multiple choice tests and surveys

From simple to extensive. If you provide some kind of tuition service, why not test on line? Or challenge potential customers to see what they know about your service/product, and then provide them with the answers. This can be a powerful selling device.

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Calendar

You can have a graphical calendar on your site where anyone or just people with the password can enter appointments or events and see them displayed. This feature can be utilised in a variety of ways.

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Personalised Postcards

Visitors to your site can send a personalised email postcard to their friends chosen from a range of options you provide. Especially useful for sites which are visually orientated, eg photographers or tourist destinations.

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Updateable News column

Not strictly interactive, but a valuable addition to your site provided it is kept up to date. It typically takes the form of a single column on the home page, but need not be limited to this. You can update it yourself via your web browser (password protected) and it can be set up to format your input automatically, so that all you have to do is to type in your news or paste a text file into the input form; the program does the rest!

See an example (opens new window, close to return)

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