Have you ever been excited to land on a website only to find that it is really frustrating to use? Nothing seems to gel right, the navigation is all over the place, and you’re not even sure what you’re supposed to ‘do’ on the website?
When it comes to website functionality, the key idea of less is more couldn’t be more apt, but it’s not just simplicity your own website needs, it’s a clear vision and direction, and a clear user journey.
Pre-planning your website functionality
If you’re looking to build your first website, or you’re doing a redesign for your business website , you’ll need to make website functionality a key priority right from the get-go.
A poorly designed website that hasn’t got a clear direction or use will annoy and frustrate users, and it will cost you money in lost sales, leads, or even brand awareness.
There are generally three reasons to create a website:
- To educate or inform – This covers things like affiliate blogs and brand awareness websites
- Lead generation – Either for bringing customers to your service, or generating leads for another service.
- eCommerce – Selling anything online.
Your website may actually do a mix of two or more of these things, but most websites will serve one main function from the list above.
Getting your website functionality right from the beginning is a vital stage in the development and design process, and being clear with your intentions will save you time and money both now and in the future.
User-friendly website features
For all types of website, creating a set of user-friendly features is vital, but you need to make sure you’re not packing your site with useless features or features that get in the way of your user experience.
This is where the ‘less is more’ idea really comes in, and features that get in the way may also include annoying ads too!
Some of the features you may wish to have on your website include:
- A search box – A great option for eCommerce and informational/educational websites allowing users to get right to the content they need
- A gallery – Useful for many websites, but especially eCommerce websites or websites where you are sharing your brand interaction, for example, a community or charity project showing images of people getting involved. Some service lead generation websites will benefit from a gallery (both pictures and video), particularly those in the creative field like photographers and painters.
- A lead magnet form – This usually appears in the form of a freebie and can either be part of a sales page or as a pop-up. Beware of data protection and privacy laws when creating a lead magnet form, as the UK’s GDPR laws are quite strict about collecting email addresses and passing these on.
- Social Buttons – Social media is big business, not only do you want your own social media links clearly visible, but you may also decide to put social sharing options on particular content pages like blogs and articles.
- Location Details – If you are a brick and mortar business and want your customers or clients to come to you, providing them with a page with your location details (even better an embedded map) is a great option.
- Blogs or News Section – Blogs are a funny one for most businesses. A lot of customers won’t be regular blog readers, but they are essential for SEO and provide an entry point from a search engine results page (SERP) to your website. A news section may be a good option to keep your audience updated too.
Website functionality isn’t just a consideration for your users, it’s a consideration for your developers too.
Knowing what you want your website to achieve can help you define how your site will be laid out, both now and in the future.
Take an informational blog site for example. These are simple websites that have a blog-roll home page and write SEO friendly articles that answer specific questions and queries users may have, such as “how long does camping gas last?” or “21 Items To Launch Your Website”. Most blog-style websites will spend their first year or so just creating blog content, but many will want to progress to perhaps lead generation for a course or even selling products through brand deals.
During your planning phase, you should try to consider how your website (and business) will evolve and plan that into your template. It may be that you’ll want a sales page in the future, and building it in right at the beginning (even if it’s hidden from your current users) will save you time, money, and a lot of headaches later on down the line.
Planning the content on your website is just as important as planning what it will look like and what you want users to do when they land on your website . You’ll need to decide which pages you will want to keep as static pages (pages like your home page, your about page and your contact page), and which pages will change and evolve over time.
Having a roadmap of where your business is now, in three years, five years and where you’d like to be in the future is a great way of helping you decide how your website will evolve, and how the content will evolve with it.
There’s a saying in the marketing world that ‘content is king’ and with every major update that Google rolls out, it’s becoming clearer that their algorithm is favouring good content well above poor content. Good content looks different for every website and every user, but in general Google (and users) prefer content that is both helpful and authoritative, they need to trust that your content is true and that they are getting exactly what they need be that in information or products.
During the planning phase of your website, be sure to map out the key pages you need now and have an idea of the potential new pages you’ll want to add in the future and communicate these with your designer and developer.
Planning a website build is more in-depth than just wireframing and deciding on aesthetics. It’s part future telling and part mind-reading!
Our friendly team have years of experience working with businesses to design and develop new websites that work now and are future-proof against a changing business landscape. Get in touch today to discuss your requirements and put your business in a better position to weather future storms.