As I mentioned in Planning for a Successful Application/Website, social media has changed the landscape of the Internet. Static informational pages are still helpful but users have become spoiled with all of the bells and whistles that savvy developers continue to churn out.
While all of the bells and whistles are great, simply adding them to your website will not necessarily result in a better experience for you or your users. Today I’m going to walk you through a new way to look at Internet applications and websites.
What is a Passive website?
Websites up until recently were fairly straight forward. Yes, you had static (plain non-changing content) and dynamic (pages created on the fly with data from a database) but both had one driver; the end-user. The mode was “Passive”.
Passive websites require spending time in Google Analytics and trying to figure out how to update the website to get more people to 1. Stay on the site and 2. Navigate to where we want them to go. ie. the order form.
Tip: If you have never used Google Analytics before you need to get familiar with it right now. It’s fantastic and free and just a dozen years ago would have cost you upwards of $10,000 from another company for a fraction of the data and functionality.
The goal of any application or website is to keep the user interacting and moving where you want them to go. If you are Facebook you want the user to keep hitting “like” and posting their information otherwise your website is a dying one and will soon be forgotten. If you are Amazon you want your users to consider other items when they are checking out. This leads us to “active” websites.
What is an Active website?
Once again I’ll mention Google. They were really first to introduce “Active” websites. We can learn a lot from Google.
Google makes billions of dollars a year because of a few things. One, they perfected the search engine. It is fast and very accurate. Two, they built a self serve advertising platform. By placing these text ads beside the search results Google has built a huge business. (Facebook is still looking to monetize their website.)
By laying the foundation for advertisements based around their search engine, Google took this one step further by allowing users to take a cut of their profits by placing ads on the user’s websites. As a result, Ad Sense allowed Google to place advertisements on millions of websites with ZERO work or maintenance on their part. Brilliant but this is not the “Active” website that I am getting at.
Google is a perfect example of an active website because they tailor the web ads to your preferences. Once the user agrees (and pretty much 99% do) Google tracks your searches. Knowing what you searched for in the past allows Google to continually place relevant ads on all of those millions of websites I mentioned earlier. Google doesn’t just look at previous data; they use it in real-time.
Google is a perfect example of an Active website. An Active website allows the user to drive but essentially it’s the website that is suggesting and pulling the user in the direction it wants.
Another great example of an active website is Facebook. They have continually improved the site to generate interaction. You can like, share, comment, invite and message just to name a few. Notice these are all “action” verbs.
How to make your website Active; not Passive
So where do you go from here? The first thing you need to ask yourself is “Where am I taking this user?”. You need to know where you want the user to end up before you can chart the course to get there.
Here are some examples:
If you are an eCommerce site then your final destination is the order form but that should not be the end-all destination by any means. Think about how you get the user to add similar or other products to their cart before checkout… think Amazon.
If you are a blogger and have no products then you want the user to stay on your website. So, your final destination is another blog post.
If you are a social network your final destination is no place in particular. You want users to keep going in circles basically. As long as they feel like they are accomplishing something you will have a lot of user interaction.
Informational websites are great and needed but the majority of websites need to be “active” in today’s world. Think about how you can add interactivity to your website so that the user stays stimulated and interested. Now is the perfect time to add some “smarts” to your website.
What idea do you have for keeping the user interested and interacting?