WebRef Update: Featured Article: Encouraging Community On Your Web Site Through Experience | WebReference

WebRef Update: Featured Article: Encouraging Community On Your Web Site Through Experience

Encouraging Community On Your Web Site Through Experience

I'd like to tell you a story. A girl played soccer the other day. The End. What? You don't think that was much of a story? Well, how about this one: I bought a CD online the other day. The End. Unfortunately, that's about as much of an experience as most Web sites offer.

What if I told the soccer story like this: The US Women's World Cup Soccer team found themselves tied with China after 90 minutes of grueling play during which no one was able to score a goal. The game was then decided on penalty kicks - one-on-one contests between the goalie and the kicker. Brandy Chastain blew the ball past one of the best goalies in the world into the back corner of the net for the game-winning goal. The crowd erupted into a deafening celebration and television cameras filmed for posterity, Brandy's victory dance around the field stripped down to her black sports bra.

Did you notice the difference? The first time, I just offered you information, but the second time, I shared an experience.

The difference between offering online users a service and offering them a complete and unique experience can mean the difference between a passerby and a return customer. If visitors to your site discover that it's memorable as well as useful, there's a good possibility that not only will they be back themselves, they'll send their friends too. Pretty soon, you have a "community," of sorts. Plan and build your site to take advantage of our natural inclination to share a positive experience, then provide that experience.

The site www.garden.com was one of the first places on the Web to sell seeds and other gardening items. But it wasn't until they added regular help articles and that nifty little garden planner that their site popularity really took off. There are sites that were built backwards, as a catalog of old email newsletters with searchable archives. Some sites, like www.eqhaven.com, a site for players of the game Everquest, got its start almost totally from threaded messages and visitor polls. But sites like these offer the users an experience and the opportunity to share with others. As a result, their user-ship grows. And where users flock, commerce follows.

The simplest way to build an experience is to offer user interaction, and I'm not talking about buttons to click. There are lots of ways to invite your site visitors to become involved with your Web community.

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One of the simplest ways to invite a user to become part of your Web community is to provide regular information about your site and ask for feedback. In its most basic form, you can simply set up a form that the user fills in, providing you with an email address for future contact and maybe a box for comments. In more complex situations you might need to set up a database-driven form for your site or sign up for a list server. MSN/LinkExchange offers ListBot (www.listbot.com), a free list server that's pretty easy to operate.

Next: More Techniques to get visitors

This article originally appeared in the December 9, 1999 edition of the WebReference Update Newsletter.


Comments are welcome
Written by Michelle Moore and

Revised: May 12, 2000

URL: http://webreference.com/new/experience.html