Some time ago, web design was basically the Wild West. No ADA compliance. No mobile responsiveness. Nothing. Thankfully, those days are gone. Today, if you don’t take care of the functionality of a website, it’s never going to see the light of day when it comes to search engine rankings. Nor are you going to get new leads and customers.
The question is, what is the functionality of a website? And how can you improve this on your website?
Keep reading, as, in this article, we’re going to answer all of those questions (and more!).
What is the functionality of a website?
Simply put, website functionality refers to how easy it is for a user to navigate your site, find the information they need and/or make a purchase.
After all, users visit your website to get something immediately, whether it be finding info, making a purchase, or accessing a service Your job as a business owner is to make that task as easy as possible. Otherwise, the user may go to one of your competitors, which of course, we don’t want.
Many don’t believe that functionality comes before beauty and elegance when it comes to web design and development. A website can be as aesthetically pleasing as they get but fail to bring in any results because its functionality isn’t optimised. Good web design revolves around the needs and wants of the users. That’s why nailing the functionality of a website before its visual design can yield great results. But of course, both are important.
Here are some ways to improve your website’s functionality:
- Simple navigation
- Clear UX (user experience)
- Easy to understand UI (user interface)
- Appealing product visuals and descriptions
- Obvious CTAs that aren’t intrusive
- A good knowledge base or blog
Why does website functionality matter?
It’s simple: a functional website is more likely to bring in new users, retain them for longer, and encourage them to convert into leads and, eventually, customers. So, the more technically functional a website is, both on the front and the back end, the better for you and your users.
How to plan the functionality of your website
Here’s a step-by-step plan to improve the functionality of your website:
First, identify the purpose of your web property
The purpose and goal of your website are the main factors to consider when you’re trying to take your website’s functionality to the next level.
Why do users visit your site? Are they looking for information? Are they trying to purchase a product or service? Do they have to fill in contact information?
Whatever the purpose might be, implementing the features that support it should be a priority. For example, if your users need to locate information on your website, adding a search feature should be at the top of your priorities.
Next, make a list of the features that are essential for your goals
In this step, you need to gather a list of all the features your site needs to achieve its intended purpose.
Here, you must take your audience into account. Think about your target audience and what they’re searching for on your website. What are their needs? Their wants? Their expectations?
If you haven’t done it already, create audience personas as they can help you better understand your audience. Here’s a great guide on how to do it by Hootsuite.
Take everything you know about your audience and find out what it means when it comes to website functionality. For example, if your audience mainly consists of older people who might not be as tech-savvy, you need to limit complicated features that can make using your website a hassle for them. Or, if your audience primarily visits your website to submit contact info, you must add a contact form to help them do it easily.
Examples of features you might need
If you’re struggling to find which features you’re going to need to nail the functionality of a website, here are some popular functionality options to consider:
- In-site search
- Contact forms
- Subscription forms
- Photo galleries
- Video libraries
- Social sharing tools
This list is in no way complete, of course. Those are just some examples. If you’re looking for inspiration, you can check other websites in your niche or industry and see what they use to satisfy their users and meet their needs. We’ll also delve into the essential elements to consider later in this article.
Pick the essential features
If you have a limited budget, it might be hard to implement every good feature out there and build a highly interactive website. That’s why you need to set your expectations right and learn to prioritise.
After all, spending more time and money making your website functionality work perfectly is better than cutting corners to add some bells and whistles that you might or might not need.
Technology can be a limiting factor as well. For example, if you’re using a CMS or content management system, you need to consider which features it offers out of the box and whether you’re going to need to purchase extra addons or plugins for the sake of functionality.
Keep all of that into account before choosing the platform and features of your upcoming website.
Keep the team in mind
Does the team tasked with building your website has the expertise and technologies needed to build the features you need?
Before assigning the website to a team, make sure they’re capable of delivering the features your users need. As always, keep your budget in mind and set realistic expectations.
Content should also be considered
The type of content you’re going to post is crucial to consider when tackling the functionality of your website. For example, if you’re planning to post blog posts, you need some kind of blogging functionality. If you need to display a photo gallery, you need to determine how to do it.
Keep any special kind of content you need in mind and find the features it requires to be presented properly.
Define the technical details
Once you’ve made a final list of the features you’re going to need, the next step is to map them out clearly.
For each feature, define your expectations while being as detailed as possible. How should the feature function? How will users interact with it? Include any other details that you think are relevant and provide examples where possible to make sure everything is clear.
Anyone involved in the development of the website, whether it be the decision-makers or the team building the actual thing, should take a look and sign off on these details to avoid any misunderstandings or miscommunication in the future.
Essential functionality features to keep in mind
Functionality of a website: UX and SEO
When creating any kind of website, especially if it’s one that’s intended to turn leads into customers, two essential elements to consider are the user experience and SEO (search engine optimisation).
They’re not mutually exclusive, but they’re mutually beneficial for your users and your website’s rankings. After all, what’s the point of dominating the search results if your site offers limited value? And what’s the point of offering great value if no one’s going to see it?
Long gone are the days when SEO was just about posting a tonne of content, building a couple of links, and ranking overnight. Today, UX elements, such as quality content, site navigation, security, mobile responsiveness and user engagement, are ranking factors as well.
Here are some functionality elements to consider to comply with SEO best practices:
- Fast load speeds: we all know that slow websites are frustrating to use. That’s why you need to shorten the load times on your website if you care about user retention.
- Responsiveness across different screens: 92% of internet users use mobile devices to go online at least some of the time, which is why you need to make sure that your website loads fine on desktop devices, smartphones and tablets.
- Easy navigation: try to make navigating your website as easy as possible. Users mustn’t struggle to find everything they need on your website.
Functionality of a website: ADA Compliance
In 2019, a blind man called Guillermo Robles brought up a lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza because he claimed that the company’s website and mobile app weren’t accessible to people with disabilities. He couldn’t order a custom pizza from Domino’s twice simply because the images didn’t have alt texts, so information wasn’t properly communicated to him.
The fast-food giant had to pay up in the end, and the marketing world learned a lesson: any website or app should be accessible to anyone.
In September 2010, the Department of Justice released the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design, which provides a guide on how to make websites accessible to everyone. Any company that doesn’t comply is just waiting for a lawsuit to happen.
In the UK, the accessibility of websites is covered by a similar act, the Equality Act 2010.
Not only is ADA compliance a functionality element and legal safeguard, but it’s also a ranking factor. Here are some ways to make your website more functional to people with disabilities:
Add alt text to images
Alt text allows screen readers to identify and read images properly. It’s also a great way to help search engines better understand the images on your website.
Title and heading tags allow users to identify whether the information presented on a certain page is relevant to them or not. They also allow search engine crawlers to understand what a page is about and where to place it in search results. Finally, they help screen readers better understand the structure of web pages.
There should be a colour contrast between the background and the text of a webpage or an image to reduce challenges for those with vision impairment issues like colour-blind people. Besides, it makes your content easier to read for everyone.
Get in touch with a web design specialist
If you feel like getting the functionality of a website right is difficult for your skillset, let us take care of it for you. Get in touch today with our Birmingham web development agency!