Entertain Me! A Guide to Website Interactivity

By Rachael Haring

It doesn't take a genius to realize that people like to have fun. They like to compete, to laugh, to voice their opinions and emotions, to communicate, and to know that someone is listening. In a word, they like to interact.

When the web came along, its uniquely interactive possibilities were touted heavily. Unlike TV or radio, here is a medium where the customer can choose any one of millions of paths and new products. By its very nature, the internet facilitates choice, connections, and instant communication. No longer are consumers limited to passively perusing advertisements: now, they can respond to firms with unprecedented speed and convenience. In turn, the firms can ask what their customers are thinking, collect valuable customer information, and adjust their offerings to public opinion.

So, given the wonders of the internet, why are so many websites filled with the same drab text links and impersonal rhetoric? You know the ones: every link is about "Our Company" and "Our Mission," the layout is dull and static, and feedback addresses are buried beneath mounds of company policies. Even pages which sell fun products, such as travel agencies or children's items, can look as though they were designed by undertakers. These pages talk at the visitors, not to them.

That's where your page can be different.

The more interactive and interesting your site is, the more people will visit, and the longer your visitors will stay. And the longer your customers stay, the more chances they have to buy. Why not create something appealing to keep them occupied?


Let's start simple. A sweepstakes is nothing more than collecting names and e-mails, choosing a random winner, and giving out a prize. Be sure to create a massive amount of hype by submitting your sweepstakes to every online contest directory, and don't forget to announce the contest multiple times on your own site. Create a simple on-line form so your visitors can fill in the registration and click a button.


Even the most effective quiz or riddle is easy to make; just research a few facts pertaining to your products or subject matter, and jot down questions. For extra "stickiness," make sure that the difficulty level is just about medium, and be sure to tell the readers that the answers can be found somewhere on the site. That will encourage them to look at the entire site for clues, thereby keeping their attention and increasing their chances of a transaction.


These serve a dual purpose: your customers are pleased because they see that their opinions count, and you are pleased because the polls provide you with valuable information about customer demographics or preferences. Give a prize for the most interesting opinion, or randomly draw a name.


Scavenger hunts in which an icon is hidden on multiple pages encourage the visitors to see every part of your website. Whoever can count the most icons wins a prize! Alternately, hide only one icon and link it to a contest registration sheet. This approach is fun, easy, and highly interactive.


Even if you don't have a game, try to incorporate something which will let you interact with the customers, like a guestbook, feedback form, or a bulletin board. Encourage your visitors to leave negative comments as well as positive. Treat complaints as valuable favors: they let your visitors vent their frustrations, and they provide you with insight on how to improve your site.

See how easy it can be to interact? All you need is a little enthusiasm and creativity to convince your visitors that you are one happenin' site. When your customers know that there's someone who cares behind the website, they are more apt to remember your brand, return to your site, and happily buy your products.

© 2003 Rachael M. Haring