Building interesting and worthwhile websites
As the lines blur between Web Design, CRO, SEO, UX, UI, Content, and other disciplines there’s one thing that’s central to them all. Your website.
We all know that on site activities like reducing bounce rates and increasing time on site as well as off site factors like social sharing and links are all important if not crucial to your online success.
There’s so many opportunities to help encourage all of them, sometimes with very little effort, that I wanted to demonstrate some ways you can immediately benefit your site without having to rebuild or redesign it.
By making your site ‘interesting’ you make it (more) linkworthy. I’ve tried as much as possible to stay away from ‘content’ suggestions though naturally some thing overlap with content to an extent.
If you think of any other great examples then please add them to the comments to help everyone else!
Utilise Typically Boring Site Pages
Liven up your people page with unique insights into each staff member. Jellyfish do something similar in a fun and quirky way using cartoon overlays on rollover. It becomes quite addictive to see what each one will do which engages the user and increases time on site. Also fun to share.
Distilled do something along the same lines but with alternative quirky photos.
Privacy and Terms & Conditions pages
This opinionated lawyer has a unique privacy page. Yours doesn’t have to be controversial but you could easily inject some personality into it with images and build trust by abandoning all the legal jargon and using honest, reassuring promises in plain language for your users.
The NME site is currently featuring Dave Grohl on their 404 page and I’ve seen a few people Tweet the link. We can’t all feature celebrities but you could promote a featured product, team member, recent project or company values with your dead space.
Or why not engage your users instead of sending them back to the site with an interactive game on your 404 page like this site did with a variation on the classic game Lemmings.
About Us pages
37 signals does a nice job on their about us page combining a visual timeline of the company history, their milestones and achievements, it gets the key people and products mentioned and portrays the company personality all in one go.
Stand out against all the other companies wanting to hire the best and also make the page more shareable by being different and interesting. This page on the Inflection site is both compelling and visually appealing.
Give your contact page a unique twist. On the Fixel site you can swap the faces of the designers with that of a giraffe. Weird but fun and addictive. If you scroll down, the designers are then represented with silhouetted facial hair along with their contact details.
Normally footers have the usual boring copyright and legal information and some useful site links. Why not reward a users who’s bothered to scroll right through your page with a tangible benefit like an offer or just with something fun and unexpected like this illustrated footer on Urban Pies.
Crazy or Excessive Products
Firebox, the gadget gift site, do this very well with a ‘WTF?!’ product category featuring Flying Hovercrafts, a Replica Batmobile, Jetpacks, an Electric DeLorean and the World’s Most Expensive Vacuum Cleaner amongst others.
This example on Wish.co.uk of a 10 Downing Street experience day sprang to mind. Fake products have been done before, and will be done again, and when done well always attract attention. Note the FB and Twitter shares on the page are sitting at around 700 and 500 respectively.
Controversial Checkout Process
Last year, Kogan, an Australian online electronics dealer, began imposing a “tax” on customers visiting its site using Internet Explorer 7. The news page got thousands and thousands of Likes and Tweets and featured on news sites like the BBC.
Demo your products in a silly but useful way
Millican is a quirky site selling bags & travel accessories. Rather than just show you mages of bag they demo them in an almost silly but very useful way by filming them being packed with ridiculous amounts of stuff.
Why not use interesting, controversial or unique models in your photo shoots. Tattoos aren’t exactly controversial anymore but Need Supply often use tattooed models for product shots.
Forget you’re a shop!
Slam City is a skateboard shop, but they sponsor a bunch of skateboarders, do a ton of interviews, videos, etc. & they don’t do that for links or shares, they do it because they think it’s good. They probably get a lot of links/shares as a side-effect. Genius.
Customer product shot contributions
Black Milk achieve this beautifully by letting customers add photos of them wearing a product on Facebook accompanied by a specific hashtag. The submissions are then pulled into a gallery on the product page like below on the Artoo 2.0 dress.
Allow users to play with or ‘try on’ your products by gamifying the process. H&M have a virtual dressing room that lets you choose your character, dress them up and then buy or share the results.
3D product creation
Enabling users to create their own products then view them in 3D is fun and engaging and whether or not they end up buying the product it just begs to be shared socially. This process is optimised by Foldable.me.
Let users test drive products
Some things are fun and easy to buy online and others not so much. Then again some people hate buying glasses in store too. Specsavers lets you virtually try on any glasses by simply uploading a photo then choosing frames and colours to see how they’ll look.
Warts and all
How about letting everyone see right inside your company’s inner workings. It’s simple yet very effective to do what Huit Denim did and have a live webcam of your factory and processes for all to see.
Publicise bugs and complaints
Instead of trying to cover up customer problems how about make them all public like Naked Wines do. Not only will other customers see you help but it builds trust very quickly with potential customers.
Let your customers see you during interactions
Schuh, the footwear site, have a live support chat that let’s you see the support agent you are dealing with on a webcam. They can’t see you so it’s not an intrusive service but it’s a nice reminder it’s an actual person helping you.
Freeagent, the online accounting software, have an amazing support team. We use Freeagent so I’ve experienced them a few times. I love that on their support page it shows you the members of the support team and their names. Nice and personable. Stock photos worked in 1996. Nowadays, not so much. How many companies can that 1 girl with the headset work for and who really has a globe in their office to point at?
Be the real, authentic, you
Love this site. You might have seen Ling on Dragon’s Den with her car leasing business. Her personality and marketing were eccentric and different but instead of trying to hide that away or change them to fit a persona the site just played on it and embraces her completely. Don’t try to fake it, people will know when you are being yourself.
Include your pets
Lots of companies have dogs that come to the office with workers or satellite staff might spend all day with their companions. People love animals so feature them on your site and let your audience get to know them. Web agency Nclud include their pets on their people page like loveable Floyd Günther below.
Do it live
Annoyingly I couldn’t find the example I wanted to use. There used to be a stunt kite maker who you could watch building your custom kite on Ustream. That was very cool. Tattoo sites could use this to great effect too. I could imagine a lot of outgoing people telling their friends they could watch them being tattooed and giving out the link then screenshots and the url flying around Twitter and Facebook all day.
Have fun withyour source code
Lots of companies have used ASCII fun in their website’s source code to great effect. Coca-Cola, Obama and Tumblr all had ASCII versions of their logos in their source code recently generating lots of links and mentions.
Die hard fans of your brand and geeks will love this and it will generate a lot of chatter. Dante’s Inferno hid ASCII art on lots of popular website to generate a buzz around the game.
You could adapt elements of your site based on the date, season or important event relevant to your market. Probably the best known version of this would be Google adapting it’s logo to a Google Doodle to mark important dates. Every time they use an interactive one I see it talked about all day on Twitter.
Games within your site
You could have a treasure hunt within your site, or in Heart Internet’s case, a Zombie Hunt. Genius if you think about it. Fun. Increases page views and time on site. Have promo content on the pages you know they’ll have to see to progress. Capture email addresses to announce prizes. And ZOMBIES!
The Konami Code, is a cheat code that appears in many Konami video games. Many website incorporate hidden content behind the code being entered. Google Reader makes some Ninjas appear. The sequence of the code which is most popularly used on websites is the following (directions are performed using arrow keys):
Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A
Robots txt file
Why not have some fun with your robots txt file like on http://explicitly.me/robots.txt it combines ASCII art, a story and humour to create a linkworthy geeky resource.
It’s easier than ever to break away from the limited range of traditional web fonts and include customer fonts on your site by using 3rd party services like Google Fonts. Barcamp uses fonts beautifully to help enhance the character of the design.