Once you have determined the audiences for your website (see Part I of this series), you need to think through how you want to interact with them. Website interaction is one of the most important elements of the Web 2.0 era. If a website is static, the likelihood of attracting new or returning visits decreases.
Interaction takes work and an ongoing commitment to engage with visitors. Let’s be realistic. Most people in ministry already have too much to do (actually, they are often the ones to take on these tasks—you know the saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”)—but there are other options. We do not have to burn them out.
We can recruit and train others who have the disposition, skills and time to monitor and facilitate the interactions. To be sure, this also takes work–but it is short-term. The specific task becomes manageable and the assistant is doing something important.
If we think through the interactions we want to have ahead of time, we can engage the right team to manage them, automate some of the services and carry out the others efficiently.
Here are some typical website interactions:
- Click We want people to go deeper into our websites. The menu needs to have clear labels (using language people understand) and be easy to navigate.
- Download Do you have resources that people can use? Make them available as downloads. These could be documents, but they could also be audio and video resources. [Staff or volunteers are needed to prepare and upload these resources. The actual downloading can be automatic.]
- Subscribe Do you have an electronic newsletter or a ministry that periodically sends out messages? Let people subscribe to these. [Subscribers need to be put on the subscription list automatically.]
- Search Provide a search box for your website. Be sure that you have provided “tags” for every page using words that people may use in looking for specific information. These will make the search more productive.
- Contact Us This seems obvious, but many ministry sites do not provide an email address (it could be as simple at info@[your site] where visitors can ask questions. Use a contact form with a security code to avoid spam-but put it on your site. Some others provide a list of staff, but no way to contact them—not even a main phone number. [Someone can receive these inquiries, answer the more basic ones and forward the rest to the appropriate staff person. The important point here is that the inquiries need to be answered in a timely manner.]
- Comment Allow visitors to comment where appropriate. If you have a blog—this is ideal. You can also put a survey on the site to ask for their feedback on how the site does or doesn’t meet their needs. You could ask a trivia question—let them see the right answer after they enter theirs. Make it interesting and fun
- Donate Provide a way for people to donate to your mission online.
- Register Provide visitors with the means to register in the organization and/or for special events.
- Reserved section If you have information that is relevant only to members or to specific groups, you may wish to provide an Intranet for them (a website for internal use) where the pertinent information can be posted and even discussed. They can login to this area through the public website.
- Like/Follow Us If your organization has a Facebook page, a Twitter account or other social media profiles, make it possible for website visitors to like, follow or subscribe.
The above is a “starter list” of the most obvious ways that we can encourage interaction on our websites. What can you add?
Part III of this series will address Promoting a Website
If you like, agree or disagree with anything in this post, please take a moment to share your thoughts with us in the comment section below. Thank you.