One of the nice things about the Web has always been the diverse mix of people on it. In the relative anonymity of the Web, artists and sculptors hang out side-by-side with lawyers, accountants and CEOs, each with their own particular brand of views and opinions (which they're usually only too happy to express, to anyone who cares to listen!)
This multi-layered mix of opinions and feedback makes today's Web the modern equivalent of the Tower of Babel. It's also one of the most important reasons for its popularity - very few other places have the same level of energy, the same sense of refreshment, and the same feeling of excitement every time you visit.
Given this highly-interactive nature of the beast, it's no surprise that Web sites are also gradually becoming more and more accepting (and responsive) to user feedback. And, for a very long time, the simplest and most efficient way of capturing this user feedback has been via a so-called electronic "guestbook", which allowed visitors to a Web site to record impressions about their visit and provide suggestions for improvement.
A guestbook is also one of the best ways to transform a Web site from a one-way channel of communication - from publisher to reader - into a more interactive two-way street, where users can provide comments on the content or features of the site, and the site managers can respond with opinions, corrections or enhancements. This immediately has benefits for both parties involved - a better user experience for the site's visitors, and feedback from the horse's mouth for the site managers.
Now, adding a guestbook to your site is pretty easy. Most often, your Web hosting provider will offer you a guestbook as part of your hosting package. In case you don't get it bundled in your contract, you can buy one from the numerous service providers out there, or even sit down and program one yourself.
If you picked the last option (either by necessity or simply because you're bored), then you're going to be glad you found this article. Over the next few pages, I'm going to be discussing how to integrate a free, open-source PHP class named patGuestbook into your Web site, so as to rapidly, efficiently and cost-effectively add guestbook capabilities to your Web presence.
The upside? You'll finally know what your visitors really think. The downside? The truth might hurt...