Three Interactivity Features That Will Improve Your Web Site
In the last five years, we've witnessed the beginning of a major shift in the way people use the Internet. The Internet is moving away from being a collection of separate pages and becoming a single integrated experience. Companies like Google and Microsoft have begun opening up their data to allow cross-site integration like never before.
Using their tools, web site developers are able to combine the functionality and data from a variety of sites to form simple "mash-ups" like this one, which combines data from Google maps, Flickr photos and YouTube videos to show location-specific content.
While most corporate web sites don't have the same kind of content as the sites above, there are some relatively simple things that almost any business can do to allow for more advanced interaction on its site.
1. Utilize online APIs.
Many of the most popular web sites offer APIs that allow you to access their data directly from your web site. This allows you to use their information without ever leaving your site. Social media sites such as YouTube, offer code to embed their videos right next to their video player. Using this code is typically a better idea than actually linking to the YouTube page directly since it is easier for your visitors to get distracted at YouTube.
While it requires a little more technical know-how, it's also possible to embed Google maps into your site using a similar process. This gives you the best of both worlds: the functionality and power of Google maps and the convenience of staying on your site. Take a look at our contact us page for an example of an embedded Google map.
2. Microformat your content.
When you use HTML-based microformats, compatible browsers become "aware" of certain types of information such as addresses and events. Visitors are then able to perform content-specific tasks such as adding the event to their calendar or adding the address to their address book. Microformats are currently only supported in alternative browsers or by installing add-ons, but it's likely that the next versions of IE and Firefox will have built-in support. The site we recently launched for CKF Indiana contains microformated events and addresses.
3. Create RSS feeds for frequently updated content.
If your web site has any content that is frequently updated such as a news section, photo gallery or job postings, it might be appropriate to create an RSS feed, which allows visitors to subscribe to the content directly. I've already written an article explaining how to use RSS, so you can read that for background. The key benefit with RSS is that it allows visitors to automatically receive updates from your web site rather than having to manually check your site. You can view our RSS feed by viewing our subscription page.
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