Don’t build a website.
What? Doesn’t everyone need a website these days? Isn’t that what we’ve been talking about? Sort of. When we talk about online presence and building a website, especially for a business, we’re really talking about how to engage new and existing customers. We’re talking about how you connect with your customers. The best way to do that isn’t through a website, it’s through a web application.
Confused? That’s okay, I’ve got you. The difference between a website and a web application is interaction. If your customers just need to find your location and basic information, a google listing can do that. (Though it’s still a bit better to have your own site so you can control branding more.) Simply put, a basic website just isn’t good enough anymore. Visitors expect to be able to DO things on your site. They want action, they want entertainment, they want to interact. That’s where web applications come in.
What is a web application?
Now you’re finding out your trusty old informational website isn’t going to cut it anymore, and there’s this new thing called a web application. Lines of undecipherable, heavy coding are probably running through your mind matrix-style right now. Really, it’s much simpler than that, though. A web application is still a website, just with built-in interactions. (Yes, you can just add on to your existing site. It’s okay to breathe that sigh of relief.) Now that you’re a little more at ease, I’ve got some easy ideas for adding interactions to turn your website into a web app.
12 Interactions to add to your Website:
1. Add a Blog
More than anything, your users want content. They want lots of interesting, relevant content. Isn’t that why everyone is on Facebook all day, reading click bait articles? With a blog, you can potentially keep your visitors engaged for hours, increasing brand recognition and improving SEO. You can get additional interaction by allowing comments on your posts. Just make sure they require your approval before publishing.
2. Add a Store
Have you ever visited a website and been frustrated that they didn’t have a way for you to pay for their product or service online? Instead, you have to put on pants and go out into the world to make your purchase in person. And how motivated are you to do that? If you sell a product or service, imagine that your customers feel the same way. When they get to your website, they expect to make an easy transaction online. Don’t disappoint them!
If you use WordPress, we like WooCommerce. You can add a shop through their free plugin.
Let customers leave reviews for your products or services through your website, and put them on display. Reviews create trust with your audience. It can be in the form of star ratings or testimonials.
4. Online Ordering
This is technically a store/ecommerce as well, since you’re selling online. But, it’s a little different because it typically applies to restaurants. If you offer delivery or in-store pickup, you should take online orders through your website. It’s great because you’ll be answering the phone a lot less.
5. Online Appointments
Anyone who provides services on an appointment basis (photographers, consultants), can benefit from letting clients schedule online. You can also take payment during the scheduling process, saving you time sending or collecting on an invoice.
6. Quote & Estimate Tools
Quote tools are a great way to “qualify” paying customers online. Those who aren’t ready to buy find the information they’re looking for. Those who are ready to buy can provide their information or make an initial payment. It provides you with quality leads from people in a “buying” mindset. This is also great for construction companies because it can save a phone call or trip out to a property to provide an estimate.
We like to use WP Cost Estimation & Payment Forms Builder from Loopus.
7. Memberships & Communities
Make a way for people to sign up for memberships, create an account, and personalize their experience. You can have a loyalty program to provide discounts to members. You can even create a community forum where members can interact with each other.
Chats are hugely popular with websites now, and there are so many options for adding one. One of the most popular is to add Facebook Messenger to your website. That makes it easier on you since you probably already have Messenger on your phone. You can also use a chat bot or one of the many chat services that come with a phone app. Your visitors can get real-time answers when they have questions, preventing them from looking elsewhere.
9. Surveys & Quizzes
People love to take quizzes. What color is your auora? Which personality type are you? What job were you made for? We’ve all taken them. So learn from the best and add a quiz or two to your website (relevant to your purpose of course). The best part about it is that you can conduct your own market research this way. You might learn more about your customers than you would have from a paid agency.
10. Videos & Podcasts
This is the next generation of blogging. Audio and visual content is even more engaging than simple print. Your audience finds you more relatable when they know what you look and sound like. They want to see the real people behind the business. There’s also more value in this type of content, making it easy to monetize. If you’re an expert in your field, people may be willing to pay to know what you know.
Let your visitors download a PDF or digital product in exchange for their email. Get those contacts automatically added to your mailing list so you can keep in touch with them longer and offer even more interactions.
12. Visitor Contributions
Visitor contributions can be a little more difficult than some of these other options. It requires that you have the kind of business or establishment that can do something with the contributions. A few types of websites that might benefit from visitor contributions are: image download sites, blog/topical sites, and church websites. For the first two, you can take the work of providing content out of your hands and let your visitors contribute. All you have to do is approve or deny. For a church website, you can engage current and potential members by allowing prayer request submissions.
How to get started with Web Apps
Now that you have an idea what you can do to turn your website into a web application, it’s time to think about HOW. How can you implement these interactions?
The first thing you should do is evaluate your existing site. Is it built on a platform that allows you to add more interactions? Many of the big site builder providers, like GoDaddy are adding more options every day. We use WordPress because it’s easy to add integrations with plugins. Even a basic HTML site can still work if you know how to add custom code.
Once you’ve got a handle on your current situation, you’ll have to decide whether to do it yourself or hire someone. If you have the time and ability to do it yourself, that’s always a great option. Otherwise, you can consult a web designer.
Get ready to enjoy the fresh opportunities to interact with your customers through your new web application.
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