Whether you intend to build your own website or hire a designer, you’ll need a working knowledge of website functionality as it pertains to the user experience. It will allow you to plan and identify issues that could have a significant impact on your sales and website traffic.
The ultimate goal is for website visitors to make a purchase (or otherwise take the desired action) and come back for more. Functionality trumps every other aspect of the design process, including fancy bells & whistles or excessive visual appeal.
Start with your own experience. What have you found lacking in websites and what has impressed you? Did you abandon your cart or immediately leave a website you landed on? Have you found a website that makes the entire experience feel simple and pleasant? Then, add anything else you feel is important to your ideal customer(s).
Website Functionality that will Increase Online Sales
Fast-loading pages have always been critical, but even more so today. Most don’t have the time or patience to wait for your page to load and they’ll leave your site before seeing your brilliant content. Additionally, search engines will judge the quality of your website by its load time.
Mobile-friendly (responsive) design is absolutely crucial for doing business online. Many Canadians shop on mobile devices or search for information using their smartphone. A mobile-responsive design allows your site to be loaded and resized according to the size of screen being used. Most current website templates will function well on any device.
Search engines are also looking for mobile compatibility and will rank a mobile-friendly site higher in searches made with mobile devices. Check out Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to make an automatic mobile version of your site that will load almost instantaneously on mobile devices.
Apps are becoming more popular for a variety of businesses in Canada, especially retailers. If offering branded mobile tools will enhance the shopping experience, its an idea worth exploring. For example, you can use an app to keep shoppers engaged and loyal with shopping lists, coupons or reward programs.
Navigation includes menus and any other links that take your customer to where they want to go on your website. Improve navigation by making all links easy to see and access. Visitors should be able to effortlessly move around your site, from category menus, to ‘breadcrumb’ navigation, to a linked logo that returns people to your home page. All links on your website should be checked continuously to ensure they’re still working.
Fast-loading images will speed up your overall load time. Images could include navigation buttons, ads, product photos and so on. Reduce image file size by using plugins or web design tools, but don’t reduce them so much that they look bad. They may not look as stunning as they did when first designed, but they don’t have to look shabby either.
A shopping cart or ecommerce platform is necessary if you’re selling anything, but they’re not all created equal. Some come with an entire ecommerce platform. Others can be added to your existing website. Which cart works best for you will depend on what you’re selling. For example, there are carts and platforms that work best for drop shipping, while others are more suitable for digital downloads.
Interactive functions engage visitors and enhance the user experience. It could be a search bar, membership, blog comments or being able to rate your content and products.
Tutorials and demos can be especially important if your product is particularly complex. Sales increase when consumers see a product in action and understand how it works. Videos are very effective, but you can also use pictures and simple text.
Customer support options that work for different people, such as live chat and a simple contact form. Don’t underestimate how important this is. Shoppers want fast answers to their questions or they’ll move on. If you can offer live support, it could increase sales by 20 percent.
Location information for offline stores can be as simple as adding a map and directions. Google maps has several free options to help.
Multiple language versions of your website are important if you have to communicate with consumers in other languages. The top five languages spoken in Canada are English, French, Mandarin, Cantonese and Punjabi. The top five aboriginal languages spoken in Canada are Cree, Inuktitut, Ojibway, Oji-Cree and Dene.
Once you have mapped out and implemented a satisfying customer journey through website functionality, it’s important to test it on a regular basis. This is the most common thing that businesses of all sizes overlook. Not only will it maximize sales conversions, but it will also give you a competitive advantage. Recruit a few friends with various levels of online shopping experience to ensure it’s easy for everyone.
What website functionality is most important to you as a consumer? Please share you thoughts below or join us in the Online Business Canada Facebook group.
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