The websites of 2016 are nothing like what we had in 1996. Historically, our online properties were considered nothing more than a novelty. Generally, these sites were used as simple digital brochures and added very little value to users beyond what was already out there.
According to one web design agency, modern websites are now the hub of your business’s entire presence. Whether you’re trying to promote your business online or simply share your thoughts with the world, make sure your website has these four core features if you want to be able to engage people online.
1. Social Commenting
If you’re trying to reach people, you want them to be able to reach back. Having a system in place where they can leave their comments is an excellent way for you to get a dialogue moving. While the comment features that are already built into many CMS systems like WordPress or Joomla are great, the one offered by Facebook is even better.
If people share a page from your website on Facebook, the comments are separate from the ones on your blog. However, it is possible to integrate their commenting system directly onto your website. This way, whenever somebody comments on your content through social media, the comments will be visible to your other readers.
Let’s say, for example, you write a blog post outlining your new workout routine. Somebody may share this with their friends on Facebook. If one of his friends happens to be a fitness enthusiast, he may have his own little tweaks to add to your routine. Since you are not friends with this group of people on Facebook, you normally wouldn’t be able to take part in this conversation. But if you use Facebook’s comment plugin, you are now able to take part in this dialog. Your website or blog is no longer a one-way soapbox, it’s now a two-way platform for you to communicate with people from all over the world.
2. Method of Contact
Whether your website is a hobby or a business, people need to be able to trust you. It’s essential that your website clearly displays a way for your readers to get in touch with you. This doesn’t mean that you have to post your address and phone number. This can be something as simple as an email contact form.
For businesses that are going to be handling transactions with clients, you might want a little more information. If possible, try to set up an online support system that lets people chat with your agents live. This can save you the money you’d spend operating a 1-800 number, and will still give clients the ability to get real time support.
People are more concerned about privacy than ever. If your website takes any kind of personal information from users, it’s your responsibility to help keep them protected. SSL is an encryption system that prevents information from being intercepted during transmission. Setting up SSL is usually as simple as a few clicks of your mouse, and many web hosts even provide this for free.
4. Search Box
In this digital age, everyone is used to being able to find the information they need at the touch of a button. Even if you have perfectly laid out categories and an easy to use web design, occasionally users will want to make a query using their own words. For this reason, it’s essential to have an easy-to-use search box featured in a prominent location on your website.
Almost every modern CMS has this functionality built in. Even if you have an older website or one you developed yourself, adding in a search box is simple thanks to Google custom search. All you need to do is check out Google’s registration form, enter in some basic information, and copy a piece of code into your website. Then, you’ll be up and running!
Featured photo credit: Dulce, Diana and Jamie working by Steven Zwerink via flickr.com