A design is only as good as the functional usability of it. Think of it like a pretty lady or handsome guy with no brain or personality. You can only handle it for so long because they don’t offer much, which eventually leaves you bored or uninterested.

Just like the scenario above, regardless of how amazing your design looks, without any functional usage, readers will only stay for so long. Even worse they probably won’t return, which is what any website does not want. There is no getting around content as the number one factor to gain returning visitors, but there are some design and functional aspects that can be implemented into your web design to push more users to visit your site again. We will look at some of these popular practices below.

Displaying Follower Count

The Internet is just like high school: everybody wants to be part of the crowd. If you have a lot of followers via social networks and/or subscribers, then why not share it with the world. By displaying the count, visitors will be more likely to subscribe themselves because they see so many other people are doing the same. I recommend not sharing your follower count until they are at least plus 500; however, the number can vary through different niches.

You can see a great example of this here, at Inspired Magazine. Above the fold, visitors can easily see that there are over 35,000 combined followers and would be enticed to become part of the crowd.

Common Practices To Increase Returning Visitors

Another example of this can also be seen at Smashing Magazine. In fact, they even designate a much bigger spot than most sites by taking up nearly ¼ of the space above the fold.

Common Practices To Increase Returning Visitors

Subscription Box

Another method to increase the rate of returning visitors is to build an email list. This is usually done through a subscription box placed somewhere on the sidebar. Obviously the higher up, the more likely it is to be seen.

As seen on The Wild Investor, the subscription box is placed in the sidebar above the fold. More importantly it is styled in a different color box that stands out from the rest of the site.

Common Practices To Increase Returning Visitors

More often than not, sometimes you just need to put the offer directly in front of the users face. John Chow does this through a pop-up box that is displayed to first time visitors and briefly describes what the subscriber will get and a concise form to sign up.

Common Practices To Increase Returning Visitors

Subscribe to Comments

Getting readers to post comments is great, but usually visitors will leave comments and then never return. You can see where this could make it hard to build any sort of dialogue. A good method to try and fight this problem is to give your readers an option to subscribe to comments, either through RSS feed or email notification. This will not only bring them back to your site, but could also build your comments as dialogue will continue to grow.

Problogger simple adds a check box at the bottom of his comments box to subscribe using ‘Subcribe to Comments’ WordPress plugin.

Common Practices To Increase Returning Visitors

Six Revisions attacks this problem by using a text link that directs you to the comments RSS feed.

Common Practices To Increase Returning Visitors

Display Popular Articles

Whether your visitors come from search engines or referred from another site, odds of them subscribing or returning to your website will be based off more than one article or piece of your content. So help facilitate this process by sharing your most popular content.

Noupe does this by displaying a thumbnail and comment count of the 12 most popular articles. Not only does this show what type of articles is published on this site, but also when you see multiple articles with 100+ comments, odds of returning just jumped a whole lot more.

Common Practices To Increase Returning Visitors

While a design should be pleasing to the eye, it should also be functional. What good does an amazing looking house mean if it doesn’t have a kitchen? Ultimately your design should facilitate growth, which could be hard to do without returning users. Hopefully the above examples and practices will inspire you to make some adjustments to your current or future web design.

Common Practices To Increase Returning VisitorsWith nearly a decade of experience in web design and owner of his own web development company, Amey Shivapurkar shares the latest webmastering trends, tools, and practices over at Webtolerant.

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