Website Functionality – Joe Bryant, Digital Design Solutions @ Tele-Optics
Previous articles in our web design series (links at bottom) have covered topics like content, color and general design. This article will focus on functionality, also referred to as usability, which is concerned with how, and sometimes if, a website works.
Functionality concentrates on action-oriented tasks such as entering and completing a sale, providing forms or other documents for download, credit card or PayPal processing, form submission, and more. Functionality also includes smaller, but just as important, items like menu layout and making sure all URLs on your website work properly.
There are rules to follow in good website design, and functionality has its own set as well. As in most cases, keeping it simple is the best rule of all. A few best practices are: keep forms short, don’t ask for lots of personal information, and get the visitor from point A to point B with the least amount of fuss as possible. There’s a measure related to web sites, as well as other businesses, called abandonment rate (AR). A central idea behind all website design, including functionality, is to decrease AR by as much as possible. AR is most usually linked to visitors leaving a website with items in shopping carts before the sale has been completed. However, AR can cover any task started but not finished. Functionality rule violations or broken features can and do drive up the AR on any website, including yours.
“Remember, if your website doesn’t work for your visitors, it isn’t working for you either.”
So what should you be looking for when doing a functionality check on your website? Anywhere is a good place to start but here are a few ideas.
- First and foremost, is it needed? Your website has a mission and all functionality should directly support that mission. If it doesn’t, seriously consider removal.
- Review your website on mobile devices regularly. Mobile views (tablets, phones, etc.) make up a large portion of your web traffic. How much? Check your website metrics for specifics but research shows that the mobile views are right around 50% of total visits to web sites today.
- Broken links (hyperlinks or URLs that don’t work) are frustrating for visitors. Free tools are available that will check your website for broken links and prepare a report. Apart from not having enough time, there’s no reason to have broken links on your website since this is a relatively easy fix. If a broken link is to an external website, remove it. If the broken link is internal (to another page on your own website) fix it!
- Depending on your set of tools, getting your menu out of sync by adding or deleting pages on your website and forgetting to update the corresponding menu entry can happen. Check your menu often!
- If you have forms that allow visitors to sign up for an account, subscribe to your newsletter, ask questions, or any other task be sure to test those regularly. There is nothing worse than getting someone interested enough to actually want to interact with your website only to have a form blow up on submission. They won’t be back.
- Examine all videos on your website. Large videos can tax mobile devices to the point of making it impossible, or at least infuriating, to view the content. Small, optimized videos are the only type you should have on your website.
- Avoid Adobe Flash videos and animations. There are multiple reasons for this but two of the top concerns are that support for Flash on mobile devices is pretty much non-existent (that’s half of your traffic) and since search engines can’t determine the content in a Flash video, it is bad for search engine optimization (SEO) and we know how important that is!
- Obviously, if you have a retail website with shopping cart functionality, the end-to-end sales process must always work.
There’s more but I think you get the idea. Broken, slow, or poorly implemented functionality will drive away visitors and drive up abandonment rates. Make time to properly test and verify your functionality often. Remember, if your website doesn’t work for your visitors, it isn’t working for you either.
You can download the accompanying infographic for this article to have as a handy reference. If you are not currently a Tele-Optics client, then contact us today to talk about giving your website or website idea the professional touch.
There is much more to be said about these topics, so please be sure to check back to The Inside Wire soon for additional topics related to making your website better.
If you would like to read the other articles in this series you can check them out with the links below.