These days there is no shortage of things that one can add to a website. A good website, though, is not one that is cluttered with all kinds of gimmicks (even if some of them are glitzy and mesmerizing) which may make it hard to load (especially on older computers), overwhelming to the senses, and, sometimes, simply too distracting. The trick, then, is to select those enhancements which will make the site more likely to attract visitors while, at the same time, not lose focus of what a website is all about: bringing profitable business, meaningful feedback, potential client/customer contact information, or some other type of support to the organization or individual that owns the site. With that in mind, here are 10 inexpensive and meaningful ways to make a website better:
1. Provide informative or entertaining articles. If written in-house, they provide an opportunity for experts in a particular field to strut their stuff through articles that are beneficial in several ways: helping to bring in potential clients, helping to identify the author as an expert in his or her field, and providing technical assistance or helping to entertain visitors to a website. Articles can be provided as links (if already published) or in full- text format, ready for reading or downloading. These articles can be bought from “content sales sites,” can be assigned to freelance writers, can be written with the help of writing coaches, or can simply be written by staff members-published on the website only after being properly edited, of course.
2. Give useful links. A “business start-up consulting” service, for example, might provide the links to local and federal SBA offices, universities with entrepreneurial assistance programs, and websites for article databases, where people can go for more thorough research. Links provide a means by which to provide a lot of information without the hard work of actually creating the information or hosting it.
3. Give (and thus personalize the site) brief biographical sketches of all members of the staff, board of directors, and advisory board members, if any. Sometimes, people want to know who owns a website or who they can contact directly, if they have a major concern, question or proposal in mind. Websites without any names are simply too cold and clinical-even the giving of just first names (such as for the sales team) can somewhat improve on that “coldness” or impersonality unnecessarily weighing down many websites.
4. Provide “success” stories. What unique problems, concerns or requirements have other clients come to this business with in the past? How were they helped? What kind of success did their coming to this business or agency bring to them? There is no better proof of a professional’s or business’s helpfulness and competence than the actual testimony of satisfied customers. These “stories” need not be long or full of specific facts (which might violate a client’s right to privacy and discretion), but they can use a narrative approach, can be entertaining or inspiring, and can be a highly effective promotional tool.
5. Make available government, college and nonprofit organizations-provided (usually at no or reduced cost) forms and publications-in other words, provide a resources e-library. This can be especially useful for tax preparing services, lawyers’ offices, doctors’ facilities, educational counseling services, entrepreneurial clubs, etc., but, since everyone will need or develop interest in these types of publications and forms at one point or another, this idea can apply for any type of website. One can either provide a copy of the actual publication or form on the website (probably in the form of a PDF file, or however the document is made available) or provide a direct link to it on the local, state or federal agency’s or private organization’s website.
6. Provide a glossary of technical or industry-specific terms. As it turns out, all industries have their own particular jargon or vocabulary. Sometimes professional will try to dumb-down a site by using “everyday terms,” thinking that by using too many technical terms some people would be turned off. While some people may indeed be intimidated by the use of certain terms, one should also consider that other people will expect to see such terms, especially if they are conducting research or are themselves in the industry. Rather than avoiding using terms that best explain an industry, a profession, or a particular topic, why not just provide a glossary of terms people can turn to, if they need extra help? This adds to a website’s technical authenticity and its usefulness as a legitimate source of information for both laypeople and educated professionals.
7. Include a regularly-updated calendar of events, daily horoscopes, and weather reports. People can keep track of upcoming events being promoted, sponsored or recommended. A daily horoscope can provide entertainment or useful information (for those who believe in astrology). And weather reports can provide useful information on local and national climatic developments. All of these “frills” can be regularly downloaded from sites that sell or provide for free (in exchange for some concession, like allowing ads on one’s website) these services.
8. “On this day in history” news flashes, quotes from famous people, and vocabulary-building daily lessons. The “news” flashes can be from past years, especially in reference to major historical events, such as birthdays of famous people, major catastrophes, great accomplishments, etc. Especially for people who love trivia, some people take great interest not only in who was born when but what they are famous for saying. Finally, people can turn each visit to your website as an opportunity to add a few words to their vocabulary-naturally, words chosen need to be challenging, interesting and likely to be of some use some time in the future. Like the three items preceding these three, these items can be neatly packed inside special boxes or windows on a webpage-accessible for those interested but not so obtrusively placed or sized as to present a distraction to those who may only be interested in the more important portions of a website.
9. Provide audio or visual enhancements. This can be a streaming video of, maybe, a welcome message by the CEO of the organization; it can be stored on the website or it can be triggered by a link to Youtube.com or one such other video-hosting site. Music can be played in the background (such as one would hear while sitting at a doctor’s waiting room) or a voice message can be heard if one clicks on special icons or headings. Unfortunately, sound and visual entertainment can eat up a lot memory and can cause the site to load more slowly than other sites without these frills. A less-memory-demanding alternative are animated graphics. They can be drawn clip art or actual photographs. What makes them special, though, is the fact that they exhibit some kind of on-going, programmed-in movement, as opposed to just sitting there, like simple graphics and photographs.
10. Provide a comprehensive Q & A section. The idea behind this part of a website is to provide answers to question that people have asked in the past or which they may ask in the future. Especially for businesses and agencies that deal in very technical fields, this can be a great time saver. Preferably, this section should start off with a topic-by-topic, broken-down “page of contents,” but simply asking and answering anticipated questions in a random order may work just as well. A plastic surgeon’s website, for example, may answer such questions as “If I am scheduled for surgery, what should I bring to the hospital with me?” or “Can I bring a family member to the procedure and can the person stay near me during the procedure?” or “What kind of anesthesia will I be given for breast implant surgery?”