Website technologies play a vital role in developing, branding, and marketing your website. They even have the ability to convert visitors into subscribers and buyers. In this article, we'll list several useful technologies that make a good website great.
Since the end-users of your front website (i.e. your visitors, subscribers, and customers) are of utmost importance, we'll focus on tools and features that serve them best. When selecting the right ones for your business or non-profit, carefully consider how they'll view and interact with each. If they're not practical and/or distract from your storytelling efforts, it may not be worth the implementation.
Several website creation platforms have powerful built-in applications, with most being design-oriented. Examples would be portfolios, galleries, and sliders also known as slide-shows. Logos, graphical headers, parallax scrolling images (full-bleed or not), interactions and animations are more advanced examples. Those that take it a step further encorporate responsive layout structuring as well (eg: sidebars, re-usable content blocks, etc).
Although nearly any website builder (often referred to as sitebuilder) or CMS (i.e. content management system) can help you look good, few offer features that benefit companies beyond appearance. Some of these would be a blogging engine, social sharing buttons/links (making it easier and quicker for visitors to share specific content), and a form builder. That said, these applications typically come standard with the leading website platforms on the market.
More interactive applications are seldom found in turn-key website creation solutions. A booking engine (for taking appointments), live chat function (for communicating with your visitors [via text chat] in real time), video player, and audio/podcasting tools immediately come to mind. Discussion forums and social networks are two applications that allow online publishers to grow an entire community and user base as part of their site. For merchants especially, and since customer service is becoming increasingly valuable, integrating such features could reinforce a brand's word-of-mouth marketing efforts. Therefore, implementing them may be a smart decision.
At a higher level, we've got CRM, marketing automation, and email marketing, which, until recently, we're rarely seen as part of any website platform (whether a SaaS [i.e. software as a service] or on-premise [i.e. self-hosted] builder), including expensive, enterprise-grade CMSs. In sum, third-party plugins or custom Web development were previously required to add these functionalities to a website. Today, small and large brands alike often request their implementation, and so, the technologies are made available on more advanced content management systems.
As far as media goes, we've already mentioned video and audio/podcasting. Great for displaying content, whether informative or for entertainment purposes, video and audio also work well with regards to communicating a message directly to visitors. Therefore, websites that rely on a high number of sales will usually use these means for enticing potential customers to buy their product(s) and/or service(s).
Speaking of buying, we can't leave out e-commerce, online stores, and shopping carts. A beast of its own, e-commerce has the ability to turn your website into, very literally, a money-making machine. Where in the past, one would require a physical store-front (possibly with hired staff) to sell during a fixed number of hours per day (and in some cases only on weekdays)... today, all you need is a functional online store to take orders 24/7. It's natural that managing inventory and orders, along with providing customer support, still need to be present, but coupled with marketing automation (a software enabling the automation of repetitive tasks through online channels such as email, social media, and, of course, websites), the workload can be relieved to a certain degree.
Just as a realtor might need an MLS (i.e. multiple listing system) on their site, a restaurant would require a menu feature (with meal pricing, hours of availability [eg: breakfast, brunch, lunch, or supper], etc), and so on. General marketers (for example, bloggers and affiliate marketers) won't usually include these functionalities in their site (even if it covers the subject in detail) as they really are reserved (albeit non-formally) for business owners in the respective fields.
A learning management system or LMS (for offering courses or any type of membership site) is perfect for teachers, thought-leaders, and enthusiasts of a specific topic. While it may appear to be universal in nature, it's not entirely. This type of platform is geared towards individuals or groups of individuals who would like to profit directly from their content (where articles, live webinars, videos, audios, app downloads, printables, etc are exchanged for money).
It's worth noting that you don't need an LMS to establish yourself as an authority in your niche; a simple CMS that allows for adding pages and/or posts can do that for you just as effectively, if not more so.
In truth, there are countless website technologies on the Net; some are free while others are paid (with the usual payment models being one-time [for unlimited usage], or monthly [for licensed applications]). But with all of the website technologies at our disposal, being overwhelmed is commonplace. To increase productivity and make the right choices (without wasting time or money), simply ask yourself or your team what is needed as opposed to what would be cool to have. Each type of application may encompass several options, therefore, it's important to remain focused on the results you or your company are looking to achieve above all.