Website Features and Function – Elements That Implement Your Objectives

Once you have the purpose defined, there are many ways that you can carry out the objectives with the use of features, components and elements using content, widgets, galleries, and other creative methods. Using all of the techniques and tools available, however, could make your site too complex, busy and confusing, so before careful putting all the ideas into action.

The features should cover the basic needs of the visitor to create a lasting user experience while fulfilling the basic purpose of the website. Beyond the basics, these functions and features could be deeper into the site so the user is not overwhelmed all at once on your home page.

You may be enticed to use gadgets, widgets, flash and other cute little elements that may suit your individual taste, but you should eliminate them for the most part if they do not directly add to the purpose of the site. And if that purpose is to capture visitor’s name and email or to make a sale, then if they are not leading to those outcomes, think again about their usefulness. Do they add value to the visitor’s experience or do they just make your website look “cool”?

Let’s explore some of the more common features available to enhance user experience:

About Us: Transparency and authenticity is something people expect in today’s consumer climate. We seek out to identify with whom we do business and we like to get to know them on a personal level. At the very least, having an About Us page is essential to give personalization to the website and put a human touch to the website. This subject is covered in more detail under Branding.

Advertisements: Banners and text ads that link to a product page or other things for sale can certainly fulfill the objectives of the website if that is the main purpose of the site, ie an e-commerce site. Your site may also be set up as an affiliate marketer and so ads would be important as well. You have to ask yourself however, does an ad distract from my purpose of the website? Will the visitor click away because they are turn off by banner ads or will they click away from my site following an ad and never come back to fulfill the websites intent?

Search Box: This is an important function as it aids in the user being able to find something on your site that is not obvious. For a site with many pages and deep levels, a search box function is essential.

Opt-in Box: Capturing the name and email of your visitor is probably the most important thing you can do with a website other than having them call you directly from a phone number displayed on the site. Capturing their email allows you to create subscriber lists, free content give aways, newsletter sign ups, etc. that both give value to the website purpose and to the visitor for a relationship building technique. A method of delivery of the content your are giving in exchange for their contact information must be set up in advance. Email marketing systems are designed to deliver messages through the use of autoresponders that you create.

Blog: A blog that you post articles or other content is a very effective way to engage your visitors through periodic posts, comments that they can make directly on the blog and helps keep the website changing – a reason for the visitor to come back or subscribe to your blogs. They also are great to build you up as an expert in your niche and help to define your brand and personality. Blogs also help with search engine rankings and just give your website a more dynamic feel to it.

Product Catalog: An ecommerce site with a shopping cart usually has a unique software program designed to sell and display products on your site. However, you may want to display various products or services that will give the user an easy way to see what you have to offer. The catalog must be searchable, using keywords by item name, category, price, etc.

Media Gallery: A gallery of visual media can be a very compelling user experience. You may be a photographer or graphic artist, travel agent or other business owner that would benefit by having a collection of pictures or videos to display your work or otherwise give visitors a feel for what they are seeking.

Member Log-in: Sometimes you may want to password protect your pages to only give access to registered users, members or clients to restricted areas of the site. You can also use this without charging a fee to users and thus grant them premium access just for giving you their contact information and to help build a relationship.

Forum: wYour site could also be designed to engage the visitors through participation in a forum that provides for user created content perhaps surrounding the niche your are targeting. You could be the moderator and interact with the users. It could also be used as a support forum or a social network area.

Social Media Links: Once you set up your website and or blog site, you will be inclined to set up accounts on the primary social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.  After you set up accounts, you can create buttons on your website that invite users to become “friends”, “fans”, “followers” or “connections”.

User Manuals/Tutorials: Depending on your type of product, this can both be useful for having online resources available to people who purchase your product or services and need detailed instructions or How-To manuals to follow. These areas of the website can free you up by referring customers to your website..

White Papers: Free content in the form of articles or downloadable pdf files, a “special report” is valuable information that you provide to your visitors. These reports are an effective, soft-sell approach to educate your prospects, helping them making buying decisions, comparison shop and also make you look like the unbiased expert whom they can trust. You must be giving away this information in a way that is not perceived as a hidden sales pitch. The more content you have on your site, the more valuable it will become to the visitor. You must however attempt to capture their name and email and not just have a website that provides free information.

Audio: A very effective way to communicate your message is not simply relying on the written word. If you provide short audio clips of content, perhaps a “message from the CEO” or a “daily inspirational message”, this will add a more rich user experience. Coupled with videos, sound and video can enhance your marketing message tremendously.

Payment Buttons: Many websites are not set up as a shopping cart, but many do have the need to take payments online such as for single purchase items. A PayPal button is an easy function to provide on a website without having a complex shopping cart interface.

Forms, Surveys, Polls: Job applications, questionnaires, and other forms can be placed on a website that streamlines the process of the business and replaces paper versions or live phone calls. It can be a way to screen prospects or engage them to interact with your website.

Videos: The trend today is moving towards video as an extremely effective way to create online content. Videos can be used to demonstrate products, share your story, tutorials, testimonials, or anything that would provide value and be useful to the website visitor. Videos posted on external sites such as YouTube with keywords, URLs and descriptions will also help your website in search engine rankings.

You do not have to have every feature available on your site, just the ones that will best serve your target audience and fulfill the objectives of your website. At the same time, you will want to consider what the trends are for how visitors interact with a website. An outdated website with no video or interactive features will be rather static. People today like things new, fast and valuable.

In addition to the essential features and functions of the website, how it looks, its visual appeal, usability and navigation are ingredients that must complement the feature/functions so that everything works together in a cohesive design.