Website Functionality – It Matters

With so many marketers discussing brand ad nauseum, I wanted to take a moment to discuss website functionality. Over the past few years, we have witnessed an explosion of new ways for the consumer to interact with websites for what is touted as a seamless customer experience. From virtual try-ons to viewing a piece of furniture in your own home, the connection between consumer and product has been taken from the website into the user’s own life. While impressive for building a sense of inclusivity within a brand when it comes to websites, don’t forget the nuts and bolts.

Remove Barriers to Conversion

Yes this has been blasted from rooftops for what feels like since the dawn of ecomm and yet retailers continue to make completing a transaction difficult. Think of bad product page layouts, hidden cart buttons, a seven-step checkout process, a cart process that is filled with popups, forced membership, a cart that looks untrustworthy or limited payment methods. Go through your entire checkout process with the eyes of someone who has never visited your site before. Do the same thing with your competitors. Whose site is easiest to use? Examine the bounce rate of checkout pages in analytics, find and reduce friction wherever it exists.

Beautiful Site…but what do you do?

How many times have you landed on a site and had no clue what service they perform or product they sell? I recently went to cycling site and wasn’t sure if they sold bicycles, organized rides or simply provided information, but the site itself was impressive from a graphics point of view. Then there are sites that are so overly wordy, it is nearly impossible to decipher which services they actually provide. Lots of marketing buzzwords and thin on actual content. It’s like looking through car ads but you must call to get a price. Don’t put the onus of discovery on the user with your flashy beautiful design or with turgid language.

Lack of Copy

More and more sites are dropping copy for images or images embedded with copy. Yes, images and videos tell a story, but bots can’t read images without alt image attributes. A few words in an alt tag will not replace copy. Copy does not need to interfere with the atheistic of your brand, a dissertation is not required and in fact can take away from your messaging. A few sentences often is enough on category pages and can be placed inconspicuously if needed.

Slow Website

Big and beautiful, your amazing new site does so many things! But all of those plugins and apps could negatively impact the speed. Not only does Google frown on slow-to-load websites, but in a world where the average attention span is that of a goldfish, users will bounce. No one has time to wait for your site to load. Check your site speed with the Google Pagespeed tool, and yes check both the mobile and desktop versions.

Tracking Isues

How do you know how well your site is performing if you can’t track results? Yes you can look at your CRM / order management system. But what about bounce rate, page views, sessions, users, etc.? Tracking needs to work or you’re operating without crucial data. The last 6 months have provided a tracking nightmare for many sites as Google prepares to sunset Universal Analytics for GA4. Getting tracking in place must be a priority, work with your digital marketing team and developer to accomplish this feat.

Taped Together Solutions

Platforms such as BigCommmerce and Shopify offer great solutions for retailers, however modern platforms are not without their drawbacks. As more customization is requested and implemented, functionality can break down requiring more solutions to be added. This degradation of the site often takes place over time and results in a messy, flawed site seemingly held together with good intentions and duct tape.

Solid Search

The search function of sites is often overlooked. While navigation is expertly crafted and reworked in the wireframe stage, search is often neglected. Not only should users be able to find what they are looking for with ease by using your search box, they should not have to battle scrolling to relocate a product or their place on the previous page if they use the back arrow. For example, you’re on the second page of jeans when you click into a pair you like, after reading the description you realize they’re not for you. When attempting to return to the previous category page, the site kicks you back to the top of the category forcing you to scroll through the first 2 pages. This is poor search functionality, and many sites are guilty. Another example of poor site search is an automatic cart clear. A user finds products they want and adds them to a cart. They get called away before completing their transaction. When they reopen your site, their cart has been cleared forcing them to spend the time locating the products they wanted. Some of this is due to updated privacy and cookie policies, but not all of it. Don’t force people to search when they are ready to complete a transaction!

Not Optimized for Mobile

Sigh. You knew it was coming. Your site looks beautiful on desktop, but like a Picasso painting on mobile. Think about how often you look at your phone. Or if you are feeling truly brave, check the Screen Time. The results vary depending on what source you use but the average American spends about 3 hours per day on their phone. Think about if you spent that time learning a language, an instrument or working out? But I digress, the point is people spend a lot of time on time of their phones, watching, reading, shopping, scrolling, arguing about the Packers, what have you. If users can’t easily view and search your content, they are surely not going to give you their money. Check your analytics and determine how much traffic is coming from mobile and then decide what is the right balance between design and functionality for your brand.

Capturing conversions is more than looking fantastic, you have too actually be fantastic. Don’t forget to focus on functionality, as well as style, when it comes to your website. Wondering how your site stacks up? Reach out to me at [email protected]