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Be Active to Succeed

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?

Nothing drives me crazier than referencing a help tool tip only to find it states the friggin’ obvious.  For example, we use DotNetNuke (DNN) quite a bit and the forms are not always clear.  Actually, the norm is that the forms are very confusing so any help from a tooltip is very much appreciated.  Let me back up. 

DotNetNuke is a website content management system so most of what you do is configure the settings.  Configuring the setting incorrectly could result in a major headache for you.  You want to get it right the first time.

Recently I had to configure a new security role in DNN.  One of the form fields was “Public Role”.  Ok, hmm, what exactly does “Public Role” mean.  One thing I didn’t want to do was give my users unauthorized access to the backend of my website.

Here is the help tool tip that DNN offered:

Really?  That is the BEST you can do?  This tooltip is TERRIBLE!  What is a Public Role?  I think someone pretty low on the food chain could figure out that if you checked the box it would make the role a Public Role.  The tooltip offered no help at all.

A good tool tip would state more than the obvious.

DotNetNuke could have easily told me what a “Public Role” was and the implications if I checked it.  The tool tip is hidden by default so it takes up no space on the page unless I need it… which I did.

The correct tooltip for Public Role:

A Public Role is a role that is automatically visible and available to any registered user of your site.  Checking this will give registered users of your site the ability to sign up for this role themselves.

3 Steps to Great Tooltips on Forms

1. Define or describe the purpose of the field

2. State the consequences of using the field

Example, “if you check this box.. this will happen”

3. Don’t just state the obvious

Give people a little credit.  Example, “Is this role a public role?”  Duh, If I wanted it to be a public role I would obviously check the box.. but what is a “public role”?

If you are looking to earn money but are limited on time then you need to learn the basics of passive income.  Passive income is income that you don’t have to continually work at to earn.  There may be some maintenance but basically you do the job once and then collect income well into the future.

Books, CDs and applications are great examples of passive income.  You write the book and then collect royalties on it forever.  Record a CD and collect royalties on it forever.  Develop an exciting game or business application and collect royalties on it forever.  

Just like your blog or website, active involvement in promoting your product is extremely helpful.  Promotion doesn’t have to be marketing.  Your marketing or involvement could be participating on forums relating to your product, writing a new blog article about it, or creating the next version of your app.

Three Steps to Created Passive Income

1. Develop Product - write the book, record the CD, finish the application

2. Promote Your Product - participate on forums, spread the word, start the follow-up to the product, create an add-on product

3. Collect Your Royalties

Passive income is a totally hands off approach to income but the more involved you are the better the results will be. 

A few posts back I suggested that people buy solutions not features.  They have seen all the fancy options that you offer at a dozen other places.  It is all information overload.  In the end, what your potential customer needs is the answer to ‘Why’ they should choose you.

It is easy to get stuck in a rut when you are looking at all the pieces that you have to offer.  Think of a car.  As an automobile manufacturer you could look all day at every individual piece and share with everyone how wonderfully strong or lasting that particular piece is.  But, it is just one piece.  Without the rest of the car that piece is worthless.  

The question becomes, How can all of these pieces help someone or solve someone’s problem?

One of the hardest things for a sales person to do is think from the customer’s perspective.  Some of the best sales people in a field are the ones who used to buy the same stuff!  They know what the customer is looking for.  They know what would be a nice ‘bonus’.

Take 5 minutes and pretend you are your customer.  Go to your competition’s website and write down what they are doing well and what you wish they would do.  Remember, you are doing this from a customer’s perspective.  Not as a competitor.

1.  Be the customer

2.  Go to your competitor’s websites and write down 5 reasons why you would not sign up with them.

3.  Go to your competitor’s websites and write down 5 reasons you would sign up with them.

4.  Review your business and see how you can meld these into the ultimate solution for a potential client.

  1. Update your website

    A fresh new look may be all you need to be inspired again.


  2. Commit to posting at least one blog post per month

    At least once a month.  Once a week is better.  Three times a week is best.


  3. Help someone in need

    You don’t have to go far to find someone in need.  You may find by helping someone else that you benefit most.