3 Reasons Why RIAs Improve WordPress Website Design

In terms of power and potential, WordPress is an excellent — even leading — website design and content management platform that offers a wide range of options for customisability. This also means that WordPress is an excellent platform to use rich internet applications (RIAs) on, making the user experience more dynamic and engaging.

RIAs (some refer to them as rich INTERACTIVE applications, arguing semantics) blossomed in the age of Flash, Silverlight, and JavaFX, though today more and more applications are being deployed via an HTML5 or JavaScript framework. In the past, dynamic content and webpages weren’t exactly best practice, as complications in framework, browser, and search engine optimisation (SEO) cropped up — the main concerns were that some dynamic elements within a webpage were not “crawlable” for search engine spiders and were therefore not “indexable” and “searchable.” Obviously, this weakened SEO significantly especially if a website uses many dynamic webpages. Another concern was the dynamic URLs that accompanied these webpages: the special characters used in URLs might not be as easily deciphered by some search engines.

As search engine technology progressed, however, so did SEO and its practices. Today, RIAs are a normal part of the web user experience, and is in fact a rising trend that businesses of any scale and level should pay more attention to, according to a 201 Forrester Research Inc. report. They point out that dynamic content is an incoming trend that a majority of business websites are not ready for.

Forrester points out some substantial analyses points that indicate just how much potential there is in dynamic content and RIAs, and how trends in personal and mobile computing will be pushing the general browsing experience in the common direction of a more app- or RIA-centred browsing experience. But to further help businesses that are wondering how RIAs and dynamic content are practically beneficial, here are three reasons:

1. They Offer Control

Not all RIAs and dynamic content offer a level of control and interactivity, but those that do improve website engagement and usability. Imagine a category webpage catalogue for products that you can browse through like a book, or interactive navigation that allows more than just point and click interaction. Sure, they’re impressive, but beyond the aesthetics and first impressions, they give your users more control.

For the most part, website visitors are lead from one place to another through links that they navigate through. Though technically, they are “controlling” what they’re doing, the lack of variety and user interface options effectively detaches web browsing from a more personal experience. People crave the illusion or more control given by more options of navigation and browsing — they need to know that their experience is their own. This factor of personalisation is a significant contributor to the rise of smartphones and tablets, as they provided the foremost medium of truly personal computing down to the very intuitive touch controls.

2. They Offer More Content

Unlike a static website where each webpage is typically dedicated to one subject topic (indeed, most of the time each webpage is dedicated to only one piece of main website content), a dynamic website can make use of a single webpage to present more content in multiple forms.

A good example would be how Google’s own Blogger’s Dynamic Views. Blog owners running on Blogger can choose to change their layouts to one of several dynamic views that present a better blogging experience for their readers. Blog visitors can even choose which design or layout they like. Take one layout for instance, a classic magazine layout with the most recent blog post prominently featured at the top, and the four less recent posts below it lined up horizontally, and then the rest of the previous posts lined down vertically below that.

Click on any article and it ‘zooms in,’ allowing the reader to page through the posts as if they were pages of an ebook, or, as Blogger intended, an e-magazine. This setup loads al the posts for browsing through one venue and not multiple webpages, thus offering more content without the users “leaving” where they were in the first place.

3. They Provide More Communication Channels

The combination of more control and more content means that there are more channels of communication between website and visitor, and the more communication channels, the more both parties will benefit.

For businesses, these communication channels can become marketing channels for lead generation, conversion, or traffic. They can serve up multiple calls to action to different points in their buying cycle and different parts of their website, they can reach out to their target audience through better, more engaging inbound marketing, and they can simply engage their visitors and incorporate social media into their campaigns.

For users, these communication channels present more means to make themselves heard, or simply more means to get around a website. Users appreciate it if a business endeavors to provide as many communications channels as possible, thus affording them the most convenient option: by phone, by mail, by email, by social networks, by commenting, by live chat, and more. For the visitors of a dynamic website, they won’t only be browsing website content, they’ll be experiencing the content that the site has to offer and they will be afforded every convenience available. This is the mindset this wave of dynamic content will inevitably bring — very akin to how a person simply adores using his or her smartphone or tablet. For now, as RIA and dynamic content adoption is only beginning, there is still a clear difference between the app-centric environment of personal devices and the navigation-based experience brought by web browsers, but common ground has been established in RIAs and dynamic content.

The sound move for any business wanting to take advantage of trends relating to his industry — or his means of marketing it — is to research, adopt, and innovate. While RIAs and dynamic content will not be revolutionising the browser landscape within the next couple of years, it is worth looking into the advantages of leveraging their prowess and potential, especially in WordPress website design.