First impressions count. To catch your attention, a website must load quickly, look good and be easy to navigate. But after that, it's the content of its pages and the power of its features that hold your interest, and keep you coming back for more.
You've Got Email!
The most popular website features are built on email -- the paving stone of the information superhighway. Of course, all our websites come with email, either forwarded to your existing account (firstname.lastname@example.org) or serviced by a new domain email account, (email@example.com). But it doesn't end there. Visitors can subscribe to your news, calendar, or used equipment list and be notified when it's updated. Or they can order coupons, articles, meeting notices, reports, or any text file, from your email auto-responder, which delivers within minutes 24/7.
Many other features are also based on email. Two popular ones are the referral feature, which lets your visitor recommend your site to a friend, and the email this page feature, which does just what it says. These easy-to-use features give visitors information (and the opportunity to show off a little), and you addresses for your mailing list.
Perhaps you noticed: the email features all included simple forms. Forms, which we typically program as PERL/CGI scripts to make them browser independent, provide another dimension to website interactivity. Forms make possible such goodies as guest books, chat rooms, suggestion boxes, page translations, audience polls and, of course, inquiry and order forms.
From the Outside In
Most of what you see on a webpage was written directly into its code when the page was created. That's static content. But some of what you see isn't actually written until you call up the page. This on-the-fly or dynamic content is responsible for lively features that vary over time or according to changing data. A simple example, is the calendar we include on news and events pages. More interesting are the weather stickers, customized headline news, real estate interest rates, and daily cartoons, jokes, and exotic words. These features are provided by outside vendors by subscription, sometimes in exchange for advertising.
Just for Fun
While most features are used to exchange information, some are just plain fun. Animated images are eye-catching and often amusing. Streaming audio can enliven your website with spoken quotes, background music, or sample sounds. Streaming video and Flash animations combine audio and video, delighting both eye and ear. Complimentary downloads of puzzles, computer games and screensavers keep your visitors coming back for more. But remember, fun features are just that. They'll drive your visitors to distraction (and other websites) if you overdo them. And in the absence of content, they won't keep a sagging site from sinking!