When you consider what’s at stake with your business when you design your own site, you have to figure out how to use function to influence customer decisions. There are 3 levels of functions.
First Level: Basic Functions
The base level of functionality. The features to include in basic functions are listed as below:
- Quick-loading pages: Customers don’t have the patience to wait for the pages to load. Even if they’re using a slower connection, you’re expected to ease that problem for them. If you don’t anticipate customers having varying speeds of internet access and account for that difference in your web design, you just missed a potential sale.
- Ease of navigation: When customers go from page to page in your site, the navigation tools that you provide allows customer to
- Readily find and identify navigational buttons and links.
- Immediately return to the home page.
- Return to the preceding or last visited page by clicking a link.
- See pages and sections they have visited on the site by using a link history, usually at the top of the page.
- Working links: All internal and external links to pages on your site should be valid and working. You won’t want your customers to click a link only to find a ‘Page Not Found’ message. Broken links that go nowhere also diminish the credibility of your site and indicate that you don’t update or maintain it.
- Viewable images: When you include photos and graphics on your site, make sure that the images are loaded correctly and quickly. Avoid using grainy pictures or tiny images that are difficult for customers to see.
- Shopping carts: Often small website do not even provide shopping carts on their sites. Customers are requested to call to place orders or print or fax order form for their orders. You MUST provide a method of shopping and paying for the items ordered over the internet.
- Mobile-ready: Customers are using mobile devise to research, compare and buy products or services. A result of this changing consumer behavior is an undeniable expectation that your website look good and function well on all types of mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones.
Second Level: Interactive Functions
Your customer engages with your site actively. The functions include:
- Site search: Give customers a tool that allows them to search for information on your site quickly.
- Reviews: Consider offering your visitors the option to review or rate the products or services you offer. Online reviews are very helpful in influencing customers’ buying decisions.
- Community forums: Forums provide options that let visitors interact with one another. It’s considered as a free form of technical support; if your community are or forum boards stays active and updated, this would keep customers coming back to your site.
- Blogs: Another extremely popular form of opportunity to interact with you and others.
- Member Registration: You can make registration free and in return for signing up as member, visitors can receive newsletters, site updates, announcements on new products.
Third Level: Enhanced Functions
This is reserved for tools and features that offer customers an experience on your site. Items of enhanced functionality includes:
- Online demonstrations and tutorials: Depending on the complexity of the products or services you sell, online demos and web-based tutorials are certainly helpful. Customers receive the value of trying out the product or discovering how it’s used, which often increases the likelihood of a purchase. Offering online learning options is easy and affordable by using videos, especially through YouTube.
- Live or 24/7 customer support: The internet never sleeps, and neither do some of your customers. Your customer service is greatly enhanced if you can offer unlimited support. Although it isn’t necessarily technical support, your customer might need to ask a question before making a decision to buy your service or product. Some research shows that by offering live support can increase online sales as much as 20 percent.
- Geographic locators: If you have physical locations in additions to your web presence, geography-related tools are a plus. Your customers appreciate access to maps and driving directions, store locators using interactive maps, and even product-locator searches based on zip codes.
- Second-language viewing options: Not all customers speak fluent English. Savvy website owners offer customers the options to view sites in other languages.
- Podcasts: Self-published broadcasts over the internet. You can use this tools to conduct short interviews with authors, designers, trend watches, or anyone else your site visitors might find interesting as they relate to your site.