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What Website Functionality Means in 2020

Web design is no longer the Wild West like it was back in the early 2000s. Long gone are the days of non-ADA compliant websites and non-mobile responsive websites—hopefully, at least. In 2020, web design is driven by search engine algorithms and functionality. If you’re not up to par, you’re not ranking high in search positions, which means you are losing out on website traffic, leads, and sales from your website. Well, what if you are behind the curve? What if you’re realizing that your website is not as functional as your thought it was? What is website functionality? Well, you’re in luck—I’m about to answer those very questions.

What is website functionality?

Website functionality is defined by the ease of how a user can navigate your site, get the information they are seeking, and/or purchase the product they want. Websites that put functionality before the beauty or elegance of a site offer more benefits to users t. The excellent visual design of the site might be aesthetically pleasing, but it can fall short in terms of actual results. Seeking out functionality over visual design and appeal can provide definite advantages.

Good web design revolves around the core user’s wants and issues. It also depends on testing, strategy, your target audience, informational architecture, and visual design. Users are on your website because they want something immediately. Whether your customers want to locate information, make purchases, or access services, your website needs to be able to meet expectations.

A few ways to improve your website functionality include:

  • Simple, well-defined navigation
  • Easy-to-understand web design and clear user experience
  • Quality product visuals and descriptions
  • Distinct CTAs
  • Consistent company blog

Why does website functionality matter?

Simply put, a functional website is more likely to attract more visitors, keep them on your site longer, and allow (and even help) them to convert into leads and eventually customers. The more technically sound the site is, both in the front and back end, the better. There are lots of ways you can improve your website technically to enhance performance, but I’m going to discuss two major types of improvements you can make: UX and SEO, and ADA compliance.

UX and SEO

Every organization wants to convert leads into revenue, but when you’re missing a large piece of the puzzle, you miss out on the broader scope of success for your organization. In an age that prioritizes quality and easy-to-consume content, it is vital that organizations focus on both UX and SEO.

While SEO focuses on search engines, UX targets your site's visitors. The two are not mutually exclusive, but they are mutually beneficial to your users and your site’s ranking. To boil it all down: what’s the point of having a useful website that none of your users can find in search engines? And what’s the point of being seen by users if your site offers limited value?

Vital elements of UX have now been shifted into SEO best practices. Quality content, site speed, user engagement, site navigation, site security, and mobile optimization are now key factors in ranking well for search engines just as much as the basics. Here are some basic ways to improve your rankings while complying with SEO best practices.

  1. Improve page load times: The faster your site, the less likely it is users will get frustrated while waiting for something to load—and leave for a competitor’s site.
  2. Mobile, tablet, and desktop capabilities: A website that looks and works faultlessly on every phone, tablet, desktop, and internet browser means you’re not leaving out any potential users.
  3. Make navigation easy: Don’t overcomplicate what can be made simple in a navigation bar. Allow users to find the information that they need and provide a search bar for them to look up anything specific.
  4. Cohesive content strategy: Content strategy’s primary focus for user engagement is traffic, leads, and sales generation. Creating content that your audience wants and needs is essential, and good UX can guide them to the information users seek. The relevant visuals with interesting design help users to accomplish the task efficiently.
  5. Site map: Search engines need to be able to easily crawl your site and understand what it’s about. One way to do this is by creating a site map.

ADA Compliance

A few years ago, Domino’s Pizza was hit with a lawsuit from a blind man who claimed that the company’s website and mobile app were not accessible to people with disabilities. He stated that the site did not have alt text for its images, and he was unable to place an order because his software wasn’t communicating the proper information to him. Domino’s ended up settling with the man and by their example, the marketing world learned a big lesson.

In September 2010, the Department of Justice released the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design to provide businesses with a guide on making their own websites accessible to all, disability or no. Website owners who did not comply opened themselves up to lawsuits and more.

Being ADA compliant also allows for a boost in search rankings as well. Here are a few ways to make your website more functional for people with disabilities:

Image alt text

Image alt text allows a screen reader to identify and read the image and gives search engine robots the ability to read the image properly.

A simple crawl tool can be used to identify sitewide image alt tags to see which tags need to be updated. Screaming Frog is a valuable tool to use for this; it allows you to see individual files and their respective alt text. You can bulk export reports on images that are missing alt text.

Title tags & heading tags

These tags allow users to quickly identify whether the information contained in the web page is relevant to what they are searching for. Title tags also make it easier for Google to crawl the page and affect how the page appears in the search results. Assistive software reads headings to quickly navigate a page, and the headings clarify the structure of a page for screen readers.

Size and color contrast of text

Contrast and color are vital to accessibility users, including users with visual disabilities. There should be a color contrast between the background and the text of an image or a web page. The idea behind this is to reduce challenges associated with vision impairment issues like color blindness—and, frankly, it makes your site a lot easier to read for everyone else, as well. Additionally, you should refrain from using text colors to communicate meaning.

Keep working on your site

The world of web design is an ever-changing landscape. The needs and behaviors of people change as time goes on, and as the ways we interact with digital products evolve. It’s like they always say, “You can’t meet the needs of your customers without a functional website.”

Ian Misiak Team Photo at Element Three

Ian is a Marketing Analyst at High Alpha, a venture studio that creates and funds B2B SaaS companies.