Static to Dynamic: A case for transitioning from a website to a web-app
The internet is a tool. We use it every day and, many, I would venture to guess, would feel lost without it (myself included). Like any tool, it serves a purpose to enhance our lives and make them easier. Look at all the websites we visit on a regular basis…Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Google, Evernote, Buzzfeed, err *ahem*…I mean the news, Weather, online bill-pay, and, oh…did I mention Google?…each of these sites is an extension of the greater tool that is the internet. They serve a purpose…we USE them because they SOLVE our problems. However, the internet is also user-generated…anybody can create a webpage. There is no regulation (which is a GOOD thing), but that also means there is no regulation.
With basic front end development knowledge being so accessible today, and with the advent of "plug-and-play" options like Squarespace and Wix, static personal and business sites, which were once the novel pride-and-joy of the internet, are now a dime-a-dozen. Any high schooler can throw up a page talking about her love for Justin Bieber…or any business can make a boring static homepage with no reason for users to come back. These "Do-Nothing Websites," websites that just exist, saturate our search results. Everybody has one…and because of this, they are not unique and definitely do not stand out. Sure, grandma will love to visit, but to the general public, they are pointless and boring…simply…because they don't DO anything. There is no purpose to them. They just look pretty. And, more importantly, without dynamic, interactive content to give the website a useful purpose and make for a memorable experience, there is nothing to make any user who ventures onto that site want to come back.
Despite this, professionals and businesses, people who WANT users to come back to their sites, continue to publish Do-Nothing sites! And when those sites get mixed in with hundreds of other sites that do the same thing, nothing at all, they will never stand out. What few businesses and front end developers realize, though, is that a dynamic, useful site doesn't require rocket science to produce! With a little reading and some trial and error, their static webpages can be transformed into dynamic web apps designed to solve problems, giving purposeful reasons for users to return! Even if it is the most simple solution, it still DOES something and provides value to the user. Those who want users to come back need to give those users reason to.
, a USEFUL site, defines "Application" as "the quality of being usable for a particular purpose or in a special way; relevance." Relevant! Usable for a particular purpose! This is by no means saying you need to invent something new for your site! You don't need to come up with the next Instagram or Facebook, or spend weeks coding a framework to house your relevant code! Simply adding intuitiveness to a site will give it purpose! Give users what they want. If you have a restaurant, for instance, build something that allows your customers to make a reservation from your page rather than needing to call. Or if you have a wine store, something to allow your customers to keep an inventory of the wine they own with their own personal notes. Or even still if you are an accountant, a simple tie-in with a financial API so your customers' data can be synced with your book in real-time. Make it useful. At the end of the day, think about it like this…if you were to physically print out your website, would it provide the same value as it would online? If so, you need more.
All of these suggestions have potential to turn a website into a useful application…and as such, it serves a purpose. Even further yet, you are giving a reason for your users to return. Your site is valuable. If you outsource your website's development, talk with your developer about implementing something useful for your customers. If you do your own front-end development or are in charge of others', and are intimidated by the back-end, try the tutorials and use the resources discussed in this blog. After doing so, you'll see basic back-end development isn't too difficult to implement! …and it provides real value to your end users. Once that happens, no longer will you talk about how great your site looks, but rather how great your site DOES!