Focus on the Functionality Not the Design

It can often be easy to get carried away with the insignificant of details with a website design that you can lose sight of what is really important, the functional use of your design. The function of your website should stem from the purpose of your website. Is your website there to sell products? Provide the latest industry news? Showcase your portfolio?

Once you know what the websites’ purpose is we can think about functionality. It is important to think about the following questions when creating your website.

Who’s your target audience?

This is an important question that cannot be ignored. Who is the intended audience for your product? Is your target audience over a certain age, predominantly male or female, tech savi or a computerphobe? Are you selling B2B or B2C? How much patience will they have? Do they want to quickly get the news or spend time researching a product your site offers? Your target audience will determine the layout, colour scheme, font size and navigation of your new website.

What will they do with your site?

You should know your customers better than anyone and know what their intentions will be when they reach your site. For the average site around 50% of traffic is direct and around 15% through Google when searching for your company name. So you know they are looking for something they think you are offering. Perhaps you offer a large catalogue of products, in which case you will want to think about having a search box that is prominent and easy to use. Or perhaps you sell a small range of products but often do an advertising campaign on a specific item. In this case make sure that product is prominent on the home screen with easy access to details about that product.

How will visitors use your site?

Clarity of use is the single most important design factor. Do not make a site that is hard to navigate and harder to get the information you want. There is no point spending hundreds of pounds for the worlds funkiest navigation system when no one can figure out how to use it. Take as an example. One of the largest websites in the world, with thousands to spend on website design, yet they have a very basic and easy to use navigation system. You get to the home page and you can either go through the links on the left or search in the bar at the top. Simple.

What’s the site structure?

As previously stated things need to be easy to find. You may wish to carry out some market research on your customers for this. Find out how customer categorise your products. For example if one of your products you are selling are Green Table Lamps. They would seemingly come under Home Furnishings- Lighting- Lamps- Table Lamps-Green Table Lamps. But maybe your customers don’t think like this. Perhaps they would prefer Lighting-Indoor Lights -Bedside Lighting-Table Lamps.

How will you handle user errors?

Visitors will inevitably get stuck on your website at some point. Make sure that it is always easy to get back to the previous page and the home page. It is frustrating for a user to click a link that brought them to a page they don’t want and then find there is no way back to the previous page. Also make sure you have a 404 error page that directs people to your home page or allows them to navigate to another page on your site.

How will you keep the site maintained?

You need to think about how you will update the website to keep your site maintained with fresh content. Does each new product need 5 different images of varying sizes with a manual entry for a title? Do you need to update 5 different pages each time you change the description of a product? If you want to make a change to the sidebar or footer do you need to update every page with a change? Make life easy for yourself. Have one footer file and every other page “calls” it when it loads. This way you only need to make the change on the one footer file.

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