Do you remember when you first heard about something being “interactive”? The word gets thrown around any time you want to make something sound cool, but what it describes is actually pretty deep. An interactive toy, experience or tool has a two-way flow of information between at least two parties. The parties influence each other to create a new, unique set of information. Basically, with its high-tech sensors, that old Furby in your closet was actually a (useless) state-of-the-art information generating machine.
What if your website could generate the same joy and excitement as a Furby? That is, without the absurd babbling and high expense. And I’m not talking about adding games or pointless gizmos. What makes an interactive element exciting is it’s usefulness.
Whether it’s assisting with day-to-day work or lightening the burden of a hard decision, your website can help visitors use the information they’ve gathered online. And since they’re on your website, you have the chance to influence the decisions they make with that information. Let’s take a look at some examples of simply effective interactive web design.
Like Furby, wiki is another strange word that’s seeped into 21st century language. Wikipedia, the global collaborative encyclopedia, is the most well known wiki website. At its core, this site is just an information repository. Its members can read and edit each other’s work, producing amazingly complete and mostly true articles. The world’s biggest wiki simply offers a place to share information and it’s incredibly useful. Letting people post and share information (maybe reviews or product tips) generates a sense of community. With careful monitoring, a wiki helps everyone work smarter.
One of the simplest and best ways to provide useful interactivity is through a location finder or map. If you have multiple locations or distribution points, help your visitors get what they want with a quick search. AEGoals.com lets you search a map for locations where you can purchase the company’s basketball goals. Sure, there are other ways to display this information. But organizing the information and displaying it in an engaging way paves the way to a purchasing decision, removing obstacles and extra clicks.
My favorite advance in education is the proliferation of video. Complex concepts can be explained in minutes, even seconds. With a video strategy, your website could offer product training and support, testimonials and even light entertainment to support your sales goals. If it’s good stuff, visitors will appreciate the information and come to regard your business as their expert.
You might think interactive features like these require expensive development cycles out of reach for most small businesses. But with WordPress and some premium plugins, it’s easy to plan useful and interesting interactive features into your web design.
With video, it’s as simple as shooting your video clips and uploading them to YouTube. There you’ll get a platform where the whole world can see your stuff. And YouTube’s simple embed code makes it easy to share videos in your own website’s blog posts and resource pages. You can even offer how-tos in the form of lessons and members-only content via WordPress plugins like Sensei and Premise.
For simple map-style locators, I recommend saving a map on Google Maps with all of the locations. This option is quick and free, but a little clumsy for visitors. A premium WordPress plugin like SimpleMap offers a more polished experience. If you’re interested in a wiki for your website, I’d try this plugin from WPMU.
Whether it’s maps, calculators, free worksheets or newsletter signups, helpful interactive functions make your website worth bookmarking and sharing. And with simple website platforms and plugins it’s never been easier to take the next step and power-up your website with a web design that embraces usefulness.