Your recently finished website may look nice, but you should ask these questions. Does your website work? For whom does your website work? In short, do you have a fully functional website? In all practical designs, whether they are a website, office building, product package, piece of furniture, manufacturing system, book cover, or software interface, there is always a function or a task that the designer wants it to work properly. We can build a function using different methods, even so there are some common elements that you always need so you can create a usable product (or in this case a website) that can best fulfill its intended functions.
Before developing a website, you should take into account elements that are needed in a functional website. You should have a sensible process of handling to the desires and the needs of website users. A functional website prioritizes both the process and the outcome. As a process, the website should follow certain guidelines that can produce positive outcomes. As an outcome, the website should describe the product or the service well.
When attempting to make a fully functional website, there are seven elements you should always remember:
- The website is always relevant with its primary goal.
- The website must match the audience profiles
Simply consider a screwdriver. Its goal is pretty obvious: to drive screws. However, there are plenty of room for improvements and innovation in the design, for example, exchangeable heads, magnetic tips, ratchet-assemblies and ergonomic handles. Whatever elements manufacturers add to the design, they are still aimed toward a single ultimate goal: driving screws.
You should consider major e-store sites, such as Amazon.com. The goal of Amazon.com is quite clear, to sell as much as products as possible, however it has some functions that are not intended by the designers, for example, you can use it to evaluate a product by reading the user review, compare related products or collect images for school project. You can use Amazon.com effectively as an online resource even when you don’t have the slightest intention to buy a product from it. None of these were intended when the site was planned and developed. Your site may have plenty of useful features that are not available in competing websites; however, users should still be aware about your website’s primary goals. This requirement is essential for a functional website.
In many cases, this is the most important requirement for a website, which is unfortunately often neglected. What works perfectly for a group of people may be completely dysfunctional for others. If the website performs poorly for most of your users, then you’ve got a disastrous functionality problem! When designing a site, imagine that it will be used by your grandparents, who are likely have less than adequate “tech-savviness”.
These are some reasons why some people seem to have problem when using a website:
- * They are not familiar with a computer
- * They are reluctant or too busy to figure things out
- * They don’t want to tinker things and prefer to get quick solutions
- * The website uses dense, uninviting text that they find complex and difficult to understand
Consequently, your developers should prioritize more on the user experience by considering:
- * The average level of user knowledge
- * The average time allowance, do they want to use the site in and out quickly or are they using the site as a part of leisure diversion?
- * The average personality characteristics
Each site has different user characteristics, for example a review site for electronic products tends to have tech-savvy audience, while a clothing e-store may get customers mostly with basic Internet knowledge. If you’re developing a site for niche topics, such as Mac OS X or Android perhaps you can safely get away with a slightly more complex web design that allows you to incorporate certain useful features.
In the case of Amazon, there are many things users can do in the website, some of them are not Amazon’s original goals. In fact, when users visit your website, each of them has different intention, which may not what you have in mind. Web developers have long been plagued by the tendency to subconsciously de-emphasize the user requirement and prefer instead to add some fancy features. For example, if your company is an email provider, users are less interested in configuring SMTP and POP3 settings. Most of the time, they simply want to send a short message and a few attached files without any trouble.
A well-designed website should be able to “speak for itself” and your visitors should be able to use it immediately. Clarity is an important requirement in a fully-functional website. Your website should be as simple as a ball; even a child knows how to use it.
In many websites, it is difficult for visitors to determine whether a component is working. For example, when confirming a transaction, in some cases, nothing seems to happen when the user click the “Submit” button. As the result, some visitors click the button repeatedly causing the transaction to be duplicated many times in the database.
A functional website should be responsive, for example, when the “Submit” button is clicked, the user should be brought to a special webpage (the page should have a minimalist design so it will be downloaded quickly), saying that the transaction is being processed by the server. You shouldn’t wait for the server to complete the process before displaying a notification, because during peak time the server could be somewhat sluggish. This is why many software use progress bar when a task is being performed, because it’s psychologically important for users to know that a task is working.
Your website should provide an adequate feedback, so users will know that your site is fully functional. A responsive website will keep more loyal customers or audience.
You should consider two marvelous products of recent years: smartphone and tablets. They are so engaging that many people just can’t stop fiddling with them. Owners play games, check email, browse the Internet and play games again. These gadgets are simply irresistible; people can get endless entertainments and functionalities inside a single portable, affordable package.
A fully functional website should draw users over and over again, through sheer amazement, ease of use and visual appeal. Just like a slick, high-end smartphone, your website should have plenty of aesthetic values, things that everyone naturally finds pretty. However, aesthetics are not the only thing that makes a website engaging. Curiously, although some websites are downright ugly, they still work. Many single-page, poorly designed websites are hawking “miracle weight loss” solution or “get rich quick” program, they often succeed in drawing visitors and generating sales. A fully functional website should be both pretty, intuitive and can fully satisfy users’ desires.
Often, when you visit a webpage, you don’t find things that you were looking for. This could get worse however, because when you click the Back button, it doesn’t bring you to the previous page. Of course, you made mistake by visiting the wrong page, but web developers sometimes unintentionally make your life more difficult. A fully functional website must tolerate user mistakes. Unless, your audience are a very small group of people who never make mistakes, your website should anticipate and handle mistakes well as well as making things easier for the users. For example, a consistent navigation can help users to go to a recognizable location when they are somehow managed to get lost in your website. Using only a standard 404 page when the user is searching for a non-existent webpage is a poor decision. Your “not-found-page” should have a consistent webpage design with the rest of the site and it should recommend available pages that may be relevant to the keyword used by the user.
A fully functional website won’t make users feel that they are being punished because of their unintentional mistakes.