By Joshua Lucas
Issue # 7
Wednesday, April 15, 1998
TABLE OF CONTENTS
As the Web is becoming more mainstream, there has been a movement to
try and bring a better sense of community to web sites. The reason is
that when people feel comfortable within a community, they are more
likely to stay there and support the community economically. This would
translate to the Web by return customers to your site and possibly the
purchase of items via the Web. While there is no "perfect way" to
build this community within a web site, there are some things you can do to make it easier.
A simple, yet effective way of building community is to be
"newbie-friendly". A newbie is a term given to people just beginning to
make their way on-line. Many sites have turned their backs on newbies by
falling into the trap of using technology for technologys sake. This
can be detrimental to a site because Ive found that when newbies feel
overwhelmed by a site, they are less likely to return to it.
The good thing is that the opposite is also true; when a newbie feels
comfortable with a site, they will support it whole-heartedly. Being
newbie-friendly is really just as easy as making some smart design choices for
your site. Things like having a standard navigational system throughout
your site or having some sort of way for visitors to know where they
are can make a newbie feel at home at your site and will give them the
confidence they need to return to your site.
Another way to build your community is to make a commitment to
Visitors can pick up quickly whether or not a site has any life in
This does not mean that you have to change your content daily.
Maybe a weekly or monthly schedule is better for you. Personally, I
think a week is about the longest a site should go without updating the
information. From my experience, I have found that people will tend to forget about the
site because there's simply so much that the web has to offer.
The key to the updating is consistency. If you have taught your
visitors to expect new information every day then by not keeping with
that schedule you will quickly alienate your visitors. And you've given them little reason to return.
A second way to bring interactivity to your site is to answer those e-mail messages you
will receive. Be prepared for questions which will make you laugh, cry, or
make you angry.
"Lucas, Joshua Lucas". . .writes for a living. By day he writes software, and by night he weaves words. Josh has coded in Java, C, C++, and Perl for some of the hippest and most recognizable companies in the US, including The Gap, Starbucks, Nike, and Nordstroms. Josh's rich experience, coupled with his diligent daily research, places him as close to the "cutting edge" as you can get without falling off. He and his wife recently moved from Los Angeles, CA to Boston, MA.
What can YOU do to build a community
on your site, on your topic? Is there information you can update
weekly? Do you have the plans or provisions to answer e-mails rapidly?
Take a few moments to figure out who on your staff could fill such a role (if not yourself) and what additional training they (or you) might need.
And don't forget to keep sending me topics you'd like to learn more about!
Generally, visitors dont necessarily care what site
they are at in order to ask a question.
When I worked at EarthLink, I
wrote code for the backend of the web site. My name wasnt on any of
the outside pages, or so I thought. . . Somehow, customers would find my
address and ask me all sorts of questions, from how to download Netscape
to what the cost was to fly to Ireland. But I always answered them with
professionalism and courtesy (which, by the way, doesnt mean you *have* to
answer the question if it is too outlandish.)
I never tried to find out
how much it cost to fly to the Emerald Isle but I tried to point out
some sites that would contain the information.
If you find yourself
becoming overwhelmed with the messages, just post a note on the site as
to how long it will take to receive an answer. This will give the
customer the information, which will put their minds at ease. Be aware, though, that many large companies insist that questions or queries be answered within 48 hours. Answering on the same day if possible is the sign of a really sharp web-based customer service.
Communities cannot be created overnight nor can they be created by intense
manipulation. But by updating your content regularly, and answering e-mails quickly, you'll take the first major steps toward achieving this goal.
NEXT WEEK: What Community Can Do For Your Traffic and Your Business
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