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10 Features to Add to Your New Website

So it’s been a few years since you’ve redone your website.  You’ve been happy with it but have recently started to wonder if it really is serving the purpose that you intended it to. You’ve noticed that you’ve started to get less and less visitors and the amount of inquiries you are getting from the site has dropped dramatically.  Well it’s probably time to update that site and give users more reasons to return often.

Over the last few years tons of cool, powerful features have been developed to help you expand your offerings and give your users reasons to come back.

1. Update Your Own Site With a Content Management System

Over the past few years several different Content Management Systems have been developed that allow you to easily update your site.  CMS’s allow an average non-technical person to easily manage simple things like text and image changes.  So now you can easily update your site with news and other updates without having to pay or wait on your web designer.

Other benefits of using a CMS are allowing multiple users to update the site and increase SEO benefits.

I use WordPress for most of the sites I build because it’s 1) free 2) easy to use 3) secure 4) customizable and 5) powerful enough to handle just about anything you want to do.

2. Blog

Adding a blog to your website is one of the best ways to keep your customers up to date.  It provides a forum for you to update them and them to give you feedback through the use of comments, forms and polls.  Not only does it allow you to update your users easily it also has added SEO benefits that will help increase traffic from search engines.

Blogs are hands down one of the best ways to get repeat traffic and grow your business.  Best of all they are easy to implement with just about every CMS out there.  Make sure that your web design firm sets you up with this in the beginning.

3. Social Networking

You’d have to have been hiding under a rock for the last 5 years to not know that social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are the hottest thing on the web right now.  So why not reach the millions of users that those sites get by integrating them into your site.

Almost all of the social networking sites out there have an API that lets you plugin to their service and use their data to communicate with their members.

Twitter has widgets you can add to your site.

Facebook has plugins to make your site more social.

Just do a simple search for you favorite social networking site + “API” and you’ll find out how easy it is to add their features to your site.

4. E-Commerce

Never sold anything from your site because you thought it was too complicated?  Well think again.  Lot’s of tools have come out that allow you to quickly and easily add a store to your site.  While e-commerce can be a complicated thing, a few companies have done an extraordinary good job of developing tools that allow even a non-technical person to add a store to their site.  Shopify and Foxycart are my two favorites because of their easy of use and feature set.

Note:  I highly recommend you taking some time to evaluate what features you are looking for in an e-commerce provider before getting started.  While basic stores are pretty simple to setup advanced features like couponing, inventory tracking and shipping carrier integration can be quite complicated.  If you are unsure, consult a professional.

5. Photo Galleries With Flickr

While having photos on your website is nothing new, but having a photo gallery that is plugged in to the Flickr API can be quite powerful.  By using Flickr to power your photos you’ll join the millions of users already using the site (it’s said to host over 6 billion pictures) to

Dozens of Flickr gallery scripts have been created that allow you to quickly and easily add dynamic galleries to your website.  Simply install them and any time you update your Flickr account the changes will already be made to your website.  ”The Designed” has a good post with links to several of these scripts, ranging from a basic gallery to an elaborate full screen one.

Bonus Tip: Flickr is a great place to find photos that you can use in your blog posts.  Many of the photos have licensing that allows you to use them for free (you just have to credit the photographer).  Simply use the advanced search feature and check the “Creative Commons” checkbox.

6. Interactive Maps

Make it easy for your clients to find you by adding an interactive map though Google Maps.  Google has posted a simple tutorial show you how to do it in a matter of a few minutes.  Furthermore, you can add the ability to get directions to your business.

People have also put Google Maps to lots of other great uses.

7. Video

If a picture is worth a thousand words, video must be worth a million right?  With most of the population having access to high speed internet video has become THE most used form of media on the web.   Users all over are sharing their own videos, searching for their favorite music videos and interacting through video.

So why not join the revolution and add video to your site.  Youtube is the standard that everyone uses to upload videos but there are a ton of other video services out their.  Stream live video with Ustream.  Upload high-definition videos with Vimeo.  Want to spread some “how to” videos that showcase how to use your product or service? Use eHow.

All of these services have API’s that make it easy for you to integrate their service with your website.

Make sure you sit down with your web developer and figure out a way to implement video effectively in your site.

8. Membership Services

Create some exclusive content that is only visible to paying members of your site.  The content must be specialized enough that it entices users to bust out their wallet. A few ideas include exclusive forums, in-depth resources, premium tutorials and access to useful downloads.

The easiest way to do this is to build it around Paypal’s subscription services which allows automated signup, cancellations and reoccurring billing.

9. Newsletter Manager

The best customer is one that returns again and again.  Keep them up to date with a weekly or monthly newsletter that features all of your latest happenings.  It can include your latest blog posts, new product information, discounts and any other information you want to get in the face of your customer.

Mailchimp is a popular service that makes it easy for a non-technical person to create an email list and send out beautiful emails (they have lots of templates you can customize or upload your own).

10. Revamped Design With Classic Style

What what? Design isn’t a feature is it?  Well I say it is.  If you are taking the time to redo your website pay special attention to creating a design that is visually appealing and uses a style that not only fits your image but is classic (meaning it will work for a long time).  The average site gets revamped every 3-4 years.  Try to extend that by a few years by creating a classic style that lasts longer.

Work with a professional designer that not only knows what looks good but what creates the best user experience, which will ultimately lead to more visitors and business for your company.  You’ll have to spend a little more money upfront but it will be worth it in the end.

 

About the author

Adam Scott is a freelance designer, developer and online marketer that specializes in helping startup companies build their online presence.

Adam is available for freelance work, so hire him for your next project!

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89 Responses to “10 Features to Add to Your New Website”

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