Interactive Web Design
Interactive websites contain elements that attempt to engage a business site's visitors by encouraging or even requiring their participation. This can range from simple HTML input fields or forms to very rich content including games, maps and other advanced programming elements such as Flash, Java or HTML5. Building interactive websites requires some amount of programming knowledge. Use templates or rapid development applications if your programming skills are limited or if you’re short of time or you can develop your website from scratch using a development suite. Alternatively, you can add interactive modules to a basic website.
Key Learning Points:
Before you start building your interactive website you need a good plan and proper website design. Interactive websites can positively impact your brand, but they can also be a turn off to customers if they aren’t properly designed and include too many garish or annoying elements. First, decide what you want your website to accomplish and whether interactivity is necessary or a good fit to your business and customers. Then decide exactly what portions of the site need to be interactive and what technology and resources you’ll need to accomplish this. Set a budget, write the copy and prepare your requirements and proposal documents if you’ll be hiring developers.
Your choice of technology for building an interactive website is critical. Look at where your in-house strengths lie and pick a technology platform that will easily integrate with your existing technology and can be maintained using your existing personnel if possible. If you need basic interactivity, simple HTML could suffice and you can learn this and implement it yourself. If you’ll be using movies and decorative elements on your page, you can implement these in Flash or HTML5. Java or ASP are good choices if you need scripting and integrated rapid development platforms along with interactivity.
Your development and maintenance costs will depend on your choice of technology. If you have no in-house skills, you can choose to outsource your interactive website or use existing templates or modules, such as blogs, social elements, polls or chat to provide interactivity. Be aware of the costs of making changes to the content, running the website and paying for long-term maintenance contracts. Ensure you have rights to the source code and are able to get it modified quickly when necessary, which might not be possible when using free or low-cost solutions.
Interactive websites can be challenging to build and maintain, so ensure that you’ll be able to handle the programming before you commit resources to build and maintain the website. Hiring a developer and paying for contracts might be more expensive initially but could save you money in the long run. Take hidden costs into account before you start building the website and ensure that your hosting service provider has a good uptime history, firm financial statements and solid contingency plans in place.