WebRef Update: Featured Article: Encouraging Community On Your Web Site Through Experience | 2
Encouraging Community On Your Web Site Through Experience
Chatting with others online is one of the most unique experiences the Internet offers. How else can you talk to people from the other side of the world in real-time without spending a fortune on either a visit or a phone call? After email, chat is the most popular online past-time. You can visit sites like www.jars.com to find all sorts of Java-based chat applets that are not overly difficult to operate. Or check with your site host. Chances are they offer a chat room package for a nominal fee.
Follow that Thread
Threaded message forums no longer have to be a CGI nightmare. Many Web hosts provide message applications. There are plenty of other places that provide free online message forums that you can even "brand" for yourself, like those at www.delphi.com. There are also applications written in ASP, Java and ColdFusion which are completely customizable by the licensed owner. Create a few key topic areas, recruit a friend or two to help monitor the activity and clean out the dead conversations and presto, you have an instant traffic source as people read and write messages day after day.
Other Drawing Tools
- CLASSIFIED ADS are another source of repeat traffic, especially on
service-oriented sites, which are not offering retail items for
sale. As long as your user policies are clear and concise and
enforced, classifieds are a valuable user service that can provide
you with a measurable return on your investment.
- CONTESTS: the fastest way to a user's heart is to give them
something. Imagination is the prime requisite for online contests.
You don't often need fancy programming or expensive server-side
solutions or even big prizes - just a little ingenuity and a few
desirable items to offer to the masses.
Keep up the Good Work
Don't expect your community to be self-sustaining, however. Chat rooms need moderators, or at least personalities who are interesting enough to keep conversations going. Forums need managers to clean out the junk and keep discussions on track, or even to provoke arguments - I mean discussions. Classified sections have to be maintained and cleared of bogus ads. Polls need to ask relevant questions and provide results on line for everyone to see. Newsletters should be cataloged on the site after they've been sent, building yet another resource for your visitors.
When users send you comments, publish them from time to time and carefully consider suggestions they make - after all, they're the ones you built the site for in the first place. And don't tarnish your site's reputation by spamming your subscribers or casual site visitors. Don't make it more of an effort to use your site than it's worth by requiring registrations for everything you offer. Follow through with your contest winners. Make sure they get what they competed for in a timely manner. In short, make a visit to your site an enjoyable experience and the good word will spread faster than an ICQ chain letter.
About the Author:
Michelle Moore lives in Texas with one husband, two teenagers, and two Shih Tzus. She owned, operated and managed a rural area local ISP, owned and operated BBS systems since early 90's, and started developing community Web portals in 1997. Michelle currently develops interactive Web applications and consults for Internet projects of all types. You can reach Michelle at: email@example.com & http://www.2mgraphics.com/
Previous: Web sites that offer an experience
Revised: May 12, 2000