Web Design – Putting Functionality First
The purpose of design is not to make websites look nice. Websites should look good so users want to use them.
Internet use grew world-wide by more than 1,000% between 2000 and 2018, a global growth rate of more than 15 per cent year-on-year. While usage in Europe and North America grew more than five times during this period, in Asia the growth rate was three times as fast and in Africa more than nine times.
Websites and online digital platforms remain the largest proportion of this traffic.
In fact, if you are a senior leader in almost any industry, in just about any country on Earth, the chances are you are regularly involved in the specification, commissioning or operation of websites.
And if you operate at strategic level, you have probably been hired for your industry-specific, professional or functional skills – so it is also pretty unlikely that you are a specialist in this area.
So what do you need to know?
The good news is that the key principles are no different than for any other design, communication or marketing challenge.
Be clear about objectives
Questions to ask yourself:
- Specifically, who is your website aimed at – and why would they want to visit?
- What are the characteristics of a good experience from their viewpoint?
- What are the channels through which they will find their way to your website?
- What is a satisfactory and cost-effective volume of traffic from your viewpoint?
- Which measures will indicate that customers have had a successful visit?
Functionality first – before aesthetics, branding, user journey/user experience
Form follows function. Should it be a standalone website, or section of a corporate site, IFRAME in a different URL, or even a smartphone App?
What do we mean by function? We think these are the main functional forms, and they are detailed a little more in our handy guide.
- Interactive/communication platform.
Think hard about what and how to measure
Traditional statistics and performance indicators represent a significant investment and may not all be useful. For example, time spent on site by the average visitor, a common e-commerce metric, may not be meaningful if your site provides information about services – where success and speed in getting an answer represents the best user experience.
Remember this is a pull medium
Just because you build it, does not mean they will come.
It is important to understand the underlying digital business model and how purchase decisions are made online.
At the heart of this is a calculation about where and how you can find traffic in sufficient volumes and provide channels to bring the right kind of users to your site.
Guide to website functions and formats
|Function||Typical applications||Most suitable formats||Key characteristics
|Transactional|| E-commerce||Website, IFrame set|| Security
|Enquiries and complaints||Ease of use
|Commercial||Corporate websites||Website, Microsite||Traffic
|Landing pages for digital campaigns||Easy to find
|Information||Subject-specific microsites / brochureware||Microsite, App||Connections / links
|Interactive / communication||Forums and discussion groups||Website, App, proprietary platform||Interactive functionality
|Internal communication channels||Flexibility
|Helpdesk / customer services||