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How To Enhance Your Site

How To Enhance Your Site

There’s a great deal of confusion from many people regarding customization of an AOM website.  I often get emails from potential users who ask about this or that feature being available in certain templates or themes. Usually the wrinkle they’re interested in is something that’s an external add-on. This is something that’s actually not included in most templates, but can be added to many of them. Or indeed even the standard default theme. For this month, we’re going to briefly run down a list of potential items that can be installed onto a store and greatly enhance the visual appear or functionality of the site.

Let’s start with something that I was asked about recently. It’s known as a JQuery slider script:

 JQuery Slider Example

JQuery is a fantastic way to provide animation into your site. And unlike Flash, it’s much more SEO-friendly. There are many versions of this well-known effect, with some of them showcased here (including the example shown). One of the most common examples is known as Slide Deck. The options include a full-width image, or the accordion type as shown above. You can also make the slider clickable or automatic, change the image transition method, and so on. It does require some coding knowledge in order to add the Javascript/JQuery calls in the <head> section and how to set up the script, either on your home page in the Home Welcome HTML box, or perhaps a custom box elsewhere in your store. And of course, you’ll have to make your own images, as well as add any text.

Probably the most well-known JQuery slider is Nivo. You can create your own images and have them display on your home page. It allows you to adjust the speed and how the images transition from one to the other (from such options as Dissolve, Wipe, Fade, and more). A great many developers have created free scripts that can do various things to make a site more exciting. Drop-down menus, form stylization and lightboxes (like the ones already used by AOM) are a few of the possibilities.

Nivo Slider

Also like the accordion, setting up a slider does require a good familiarity with HTML, and dealing with website code (CSS knowledge is also strongly recommended). JQuery applications can really dress up a site, but they rarely seem to work the first time without any problems. So patience and willingness to scroll through web code is a must. If you struggle with the basics of setting up AOM (installation, creating categories, etc.) then this may not be the best option for you.

Another handy thing to have is a Contact Form. Also known as a Feedback form, there are literally hundreds of various types to choose from. Some sites allow you to use a wizard to select what you want on your form, then automatically generate the source code (which you can then paste into an AOM Custom Page).  A simple version found on many AOM sites is available here (see example below). This particular one includes a CAPTCHA image to reduce the number of spam submissions. Another type can be found here. Depending on what kind of form you use, you may need some basic HTML skills. Also, if you want to use a custom thank you or error page when a user submits the form, that would require extra custom pages, and then links to these must be included in the form (again, depending on the form used).

Contact Form Example

A contact form such as the one shown is much better than simply including an email link on your site. These tend to attract a type of search engine spider (also known as a ‘bot, short for robot) that harvests email addresses solely to use for sending spam to. You may still get a certain amount of spam from using a form, but it’s almost always going to be less than with an email address alone.

With the ubiquitous rise in social media, a Twitter or Facebook like button is de rigueur these days. As with the other items discussed so far, there are many various types available. Some for only one or two items, and others that can display a popup or drop-down menu containing a list of available options. The bottom of this article displays one such example. Facebook and Twitter have their own buttons which allow you to choose the size and type of icon displayed, and sites like Add This let you create a veritable shopping list of social media sites to bookmark, allowing visitors to your site to click on whichever one strikes their fancy.

Examples of Social Media Bookmarks

All these sites will present you with a small section of script code known as a Widget, which you then paste into a custom box you can position in various places in your AOM site. It should not require much skill, since creating a custom box and pasting code into it are relatively minor procedures that mpst people should not struggle with.

This is only a tiny scratch into the surface of what’s available for your AOM store. The list runs to  YouTube videos, Internet radio stations, games, rotating ads and text, and more.  Some of it works better than others, and you may have to try out several types of an application until you hit upon one that looks good, and is easy for you to set up and maintain. So don’t be discouraged if the first contact form you try seems too complex. Keep digging until you find one you like.

Finally, it should go without saying, but in case anyone has any doubts, all the material shown in this post concerns scripts that are external to AOM. You may find an application that is similar, but not quite the same as the examples shown here. If you encounter a problem installing or fine-tuning an external feature, you must contact the supplier or author of that feature for help. Neither AOM Support nor this site can assist you in debugging your slider code, etc.

Now go out there and see if you can find something that will wow your customers.

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