How emotionally connected is your Web site?

I just finished listening to a teleconference put on by Philippa Gamse, a Web expert and fantastic speaker on all things techie. Anyway, this one was directed toward making a Web site more emotionally connected to its users. Whether it's a corporate meeting site or an association's home page, I think these tips will help improve all of our Web-related relationships--and all that follows from them. I know I'll be using this info next time we redesign our Web site.

She said there are five "emotional points" your Web site should hit in order to make a connection with the user.

1. Recognition. The site needs to make the user feel that they're in the right place for what they need, that you recognize their needs and can help. A good example of a site that does this, she said, is notyetatease.com, a site for a book for Vietnam veterans and their loved ones. This site has appeals to the many different types of people who might be interested in the book.

2. Engagement. Make the user want to know more about how you connect with what they're looking for. In the above example, the site could do this better by supplying sub-pages with more information for each of the types of users they've identified. Give the user a way to participate in the site by adding a contest related to your product/service, or a quiz. Think about what your site offers, and give them a reason to want to explore more of it.

3. Convince. It is, after all, just one more anonymous Web site on the Internet. Give users a reason to trust that you're the real deal. Include bios, including a little personal information and maybe a photo. Use humor, if appropriate, to humanize who you are to your users. Testimonials also are good, but don't lump them together on a sub-page, because few will go there. Scatter them around the content they want, and they will read it, she said. And it will help them to understand how you feel about your users (and how they feel about you, of course).

4. Motivate. Every page on the site should have a strategy to get people where you want them to go next. "Drive them around," she says. "Give them calls to action." Philippa's own site does this really well, I think, with each page giving lots of options on where to go next, what else you might be able to get from the site.

5. Make them feel supported. Let them know that you'll be attentive to their needs by providing privacy policies and other ways to make working with you easy--and transparent. Let them know you want to hear about problems they have as well as the good stuff.

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