In the infancy of the Internet, websites were online brochures and companies enjoyed a competitive advantage simply by having a website that described their products and services. They used common fonts like Arial or Times New Roman in very small font sizes, and had dense, text-heavy pages that left readers feeling like they had just studied for an exam. Snooze.
Mercifully, the novelty of just having a website wore off at the same time that web design technology was taking off and the notion of “interactivity” for websites took over. Interactive web design refers to the process of creating websites that allow visitors to interact with the site’s content in meaningful and interesting ways. Static user information gave way to user experience, allowing your potential customers to actually interact with your brand.
Today, users engage on a deeper level for more time with brands through:
- Animated graphics
- Unique navigation (fades, blurs, etc.)
- Online surveys
- Photo galleries
- Live chat and more
However, the most successful sites are developed around the idea that create an engaging site relies less on the features and more on how you utilize them.
The Benefits of an Engaging Online Presence
Websites with a high level of interactivity tend to produce a more positive user experience, but why does that matter? As any marketer will tell you, the longer a prospect remains on your site, the greater the chances they will complete a form, download a piece content or take some other step that moves them further into the sales funnel.
Visitors who enjoy their time on your website also will tend to share that experience with their peers, either directly or through social media. This free word-of-mouth advertising can provide tremendous benefits.
Key Elements of Interactive Design
While there is no blueprint for creating an interactive website, keeping certain concepts in mind will help you steer your site in the right direction.
Aesthetics – Your site must have visual appeal. All the interactivity you can incorporate won’t keep someone on your site if they don’t like the look of it.
Intent – Why did the user come to your site? What are they trying to accomplish? If you don’t understand, and cater to, your users’ needs, your site will fail. Be sure to do your research.
Ease of Use – Many beautiful, highly interactive sites nevertheless don’t succeed because they make users work too hard. Information is buried and it’s too busy. Ensure that your site is intuitive.
Thorough Testing – With each new interactive element you add to your website, you increase its complexity and the odds that something will not work correctly. Be sure to thoroughly test every aspect of your site. If there is an action, or series of actions, that produces an error message, users will find it – usually before you do.
Interactive web design can turn visitors into explorers and explorers into customers. Take the time to do it right and you will reap the rewards.