5 Key Website Elements: Functionality
When visitors navigate your website, they should be able to do so with ease in all web browsers, without stumbling through errors or large areas of pages that are "under construction." While these aspects of your website are generally handled by the graphic designers and development team building your site, it is important to understand the reasons behind the decisions they make, and how they ultimately benefit you.
Your website's navigation is probably the most significant element in your entire site's design. After all, it's used more often than any other element on a given page. Whether your website is comprised of five pages or fifty, it's important that your site provides visitors with a visually clear, consistent, and easy-to-use navigation menu to guide them along their way.
While navigation menus can take shape in more than one form, horizontal site navigation has become the standard in modern web development due to the design and content limitations of other, less effective methods. In addition to providing a strong visual focus, horizontal site navigation also allows for the development of an informational hierarchy, ensuring that visitors find the most important information on your site first.
If you're asking yourself what the big deal is or "Don't I want visitors to stay on my site longer?" consider this. Because of the nature of the internet, users expect to find what they're looking for almost instantly. If this expectation is not met, visitors could become frustrated and never want to return to your website again. Studies published by Forrester Research estimate that nearly "50 percent of potential sales are lost because users can't find information" and that "40 percent of users do not return to a site" after a negative first experience.
It's 2011 and like with everything else in life, everyone has their preferred web browser. While there are dozens of lesser-known applications available, it's the big four: Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer, that make up almost 98% of the market share of internet browsers used today.
Because not everyone uses the same browser, your website needs to function exactly the same across the board. A problem that exists in Internet Explorer may not exist in Chrome or Firefox, or vice versa, so it's necessary to ensure your website loads correctly in several browsers before making it accessible to the world. Modules that only function in some browsers or broken design elements just won't cut it.
Another reason for checking browser compatibility is that outdated browsers may not support modern functionality. Elements that are essential to your site (such as the navigation) MUST work in as many browsers as possible, not just the latest release. While special design effects won't ruin a user's experience if missed, lack of navigation will. Keeping important content compatible with older versions of web browsers is a compromise that must be made in order to maintain your website's functionality across the board.
If this sounds completely foreign, don't panic. All sites developed on the Fission Web System are checked by 360's design team for compatibility issues in Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer 7 & 8, prior to the website's launch. No technical hassles, remember?
Avoiding Errors and Construction
Errors will happen. However, as designers and programmers we do our best to prevent them from happening.
Post launch, if you encounter an error or broken element of your website that we missed, a simple phone call or email is all it takes to remedy the situation. Alternately, should any part of your website stop functioning as it should after you've taken control of your site, a similar phone call to 360's live, US-based support team will have you back up and running in no time.
It's also important to keep in mind that a website "under construction" can be just as frustrating as one riddled with errors. If a page isn't ready to be viewed, then it should be "non-existent" to the viewer. The beauty of building your website with the Fission Content Management System (CMS) is that you can do just that; build a new page behind the scenes, on the backend of your site, without having to publish anything until you're sure it's ready to go live.
A functional site is a usable site. To learn more about how to improve your website's functionality contact 360 PSG today at 716.829.7373 or visit us on the web at 360psg.com.