Chapter 12. Letting Visitors Talk to You (and Each Other)

The Web is the crowded home of several million people. When you put your Web site online, it doesn’t just drop into a vacuum. Instead, it takes center stage in front of an audience that’s always interested, often opinionated, and occasionally irritable.

In order for your site to really fit in with the rest of the Web, you need to participate with your visitors. The idea of dialogue—back-and-forth communication between peers—is hard-wired into the Internet’s DNA. Heated discussion flows over all sorts of different channels, and includes insightful postings on discussion groups, scathing reviews on Amazon, shout-outs on Web site guestbooks, daily blog entries, email, instant messages, chat rooms, and much more. The online discussions never stop—they just billow across the globe like giant clouds of hot air.

In this chapter, you’ll learn how to connect with your audience by using basic tools like your email inbox and how to incorporate the often rollicking world of Web-based groups and discussion forums into your site.

Transforming a Site into a Community

The Web sites you’ve created so far are lonely affairs. Visitors can come and look around, but there aren’t any avenues for them to really participate. If this were a one-way medium like cable television or newspapers, this wouldn’t be a problem. But the Internet is all about community, which means you need to let your visitors react, respond, and (occasionally) harass you.

How ...

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