I always maintain that a website is not about inner beauty, that you only have one chance at a first impression. A visitor pretty much sizes you up when they land on your homepage as an indication of what to expect (or not expect) when they venture in.
I discussed this in Part 3, lamenting the fact that the website landscape in Trinidad & Tobago is replete with butt-ugly websites only a mother would love (see how I’m keeping on theme!). I have seen however, very decent looking sites (and you would appreciate that the nature of my business requires me to ‘maco’), that can be improved with careful thought, which means when someone calls me to assess their site, I don’t automatically tell them to begin brand new.
For good reason too, as many don’t have the budget for a new site having already spent or committed to a DIY option like Weebly or Wix (not their free versions but paid) and prefer to continue. Here is where I decide what’s best for my client as opposed to what’s best for me. What guides my recommendation is looking at it though the Trini visitor’s eyes, to bring it the point to be taken seriously.
What is website Functionality?
THE OBVIOUS MEANING- DOING THINGS RIGHT
One meaning is the sites ‘workings’ and that refers to a variety of factors such as:
- Menus/Navigation to easily get to information
- Page layouts with proper rows and column divisions, sidebars
- Content itself- words, pictures, icons, videos, image sliders, portfolios, galleries, internal & external links
- Calls to action with the necessary tools for ‘answering’
THE REAL MEANING- DOING THE RIGHT THINGS
Functionality in my book relates to the site achieving its ‘function’ or purpose. Having a technically sound site with nice visual appeal and well-structured inner pages means nothing if your visitor doesn’t find what he/she came for.
For example, some clients have Caribbean customers or would like to market to the islands. Instead of mentioning that the company does regional business I prefer a dedicated CARIBBEAN PAGE that leaves no room for doubt, that sets out exactly what is offered to generate business. But I don’t stop there by simply adding it to the menu, I add a graphic to the homepage image slider and prominent shortcut icon emphasizing its importance PLUS a clear CALL TO ACTION on the page itself. That’s functionality.
Functionality doesn’t mean Bells & Whistles
Nothing’s wrong with bells and whistles, in fact, a website can do just fine with or without them even if they are used like so:
- Many bells and whistles
- Few bells and whistles
- One bell and one whistle
- Many bells and few whistles
- Few bells and many whistles
- Only bells
- Only whistles
- One bell
- One whistle
- A trumpet
Assness aside, I’m sure you get my point (and I hope you chuckled!). Fancy flash animations and dancing monkeys only work if you design fancy flash animations or the website’s for a circus, other than that, you have to make sure that any embellishments will ADD VALUE to your visitor’s experience. The last thing you want is someone staring at your page and scratching their heads trying to figure out what to do next.
A LIVE example of functionality at work: at the bottom of this article
I’m sure there are specific criteria to classify web elements as a bell or whistle but I’m not going to get into that now. This week I’ve decided to add a new bell (or whistle?) to my site. It’s a Facebook Comment plug-in that will allow for comments to articles via Facebook. One reason for this is to encourage more comments in addition to the Facebook ‘LIKES’ which readers have been acting on. What I’ve noticed is that readers are reluctant to go through the regular comment process (registering etc) so this makes it easier by skipping that step.
How this addition adds value to the site
It adds value by having readers (you) engage/interact more easily to obtain better feedback about the article itself and generally to help in writing of new articles. More reader interaction improves the site’s credibility and no matter what ultimately helps both you and me. Isn’t that WIN/WIN?
Of course if it doesn’t work as I hope it would, I’ll just discontinue it…so you know what that means right?