How to Set Up an Interactive Website

by Joshua Duvauchelle

An interactive website attracts new visitors while holding the attention of current visitors. Interactive features on a website can also add significant value to the visitors' web experience by offering them social and utilitarian resources such as a chat room or a bulletin board in which they can ask questions and get answers. Learn how to set up an interactive website to make your web page attractive and useful to your visitors.

Determine the level of interactivity that you wish to offer your visitors. Some websites may have one or two interactive features. Other websites may be structured entirely around an interactive element such as online forum and message boards. Even static pages can be turned into interactive pages through the use of wiki technology. Knowing how much interactivity you wish to offer users determines how you integrate your interactive website elements.

Check that your web hosting service provider offers the Internet technologies required by most website software designed to offer interactivity to your visitors. For example, it is essential to be able to run MySQL databases. It is also useful to be able to run PHP and CGI. If your web host does not support these services, switch to a service provider that does. Two of the biggest web hosts include 1and1 and Go Daddy. 1and1 offers economical web hosting plans and promotes its products by giving away free hosting for the beginning of a plan, while Go Daddy offers plans aimed at businesses and larger web developers (links in the Resources section).

Download and install message board and social network software for your website. Two of the largest providers of forums and social networks for website publishers include phpBB and vBulletin (links in the Resources section). The former is developed and released for free, while the latter charges a yearly subscription fee to access the program. Compare the technical features and choose the forum software that best meets your specific needs and your budget. Forums are the most basic form of interactivity to set up on a website, and many individuals find them both entertaining and useful.

Consider adding a chat room to your website. Some website hosting providers, such as 1and1, have built-in chat software that can be added through your web host account. Such chat rooms are hosted by the web hosting company and do not require you to install any additional software. Third-party companies such as Chatzy and Meebo allow you to create custom chat rooms that you can add to your website.

Add easy access to your email address throughout your website. Email is the most basic form of customer-provider relationships and many individuals prefer to contact companies via email rather than any other form of communication.

Remember not to overwhelm your visitors with too many interactive elements. An excess of features may result in visitors not using any of them because there are too many options. Choose one or two interactive features such as a message board and promote that as your main source of interaction for visitors.

Warning

  • close Interactive elements such as chat rooms and message boards will require you to moderate them to ensure that inappropriate material is not posted.

About the Author

Joshua Duvauchelle is a certified personal trainer and health journalist, relationships expert and gardening specialist. His articles and advice have appeared in dozens of magazines, including exercise workouts in Shape, relationship guides for Alive and lifestyle tips for Lifehacker. In his spare time, he enjoys yoga and urban patio gardening.