How to define the functionality needs of your website

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Website functionality is essentially what your website can do and how it works. It encompasses everything from the actions a user can perform to dynamic content and interactivity.

Providing the right functionality is crucial to the success of a website, and it should be an essential part of the planning phase. Before your website is ever written, designed, or coded, you should have a clear scope of the features it will offer. Getting halfway through a website build just to realize that you are missing some essential functionality can quickly derail a project!

So where do you begin narrowing down the requirements for your website? Use this article to guide you through the process of defining your website’s functionality needs.

Functionality planning

Website purpose & goals

The purpose of your website should be one of the main factors in deciding what features are needed. What is the end goal for users when visiting your site? To buy a product? To submit contact information?

Whatever the primary purpose, any features that are needed to support it should be made a priority. For example, your website won’t help you convert leads if you forget to include form functionality that makes it easy for users to contact your company online.

Make a list of all the features that are crucial to your goals. Use that list as a log of the minimum functionality requirements for your website.

Audience needs

You should also factor in your audience when defining website features. Think about your target audience and what they are looking for on your website. What are their expectations? What are their needs?

If you’ve created audience personas, they will help you answer these questions. If personas aren’t already part of your planning process, consider creating them to help you better understand your audiences.

Take what you know about your audience and translate that into what it means for your website functionality. For example, if you know that users are likely coming to your site for educational information, it might be helpful to provide a search tool. Or, if you have an older audience that might not be as tech-savvy, you’ll want to limit complex functionality that could obscure content.

Choose features that best enable your audience to use and browse your website efficiently.

Budget

Budget can be a frustrating roadblock to website functionality. Unfortunately, your budget will often be the final factor in deciding on features. Be aware of any budget restrictions upfront and keep that in mind during planning. Understand that it isn't realistic to build a highly interactive website with a small budget and set expectations accordingly.

If you’re working within a tight range, prioritizing will be your friend. Typically, it’s better to spend more time making your priority functionality work perfectly than to cut corners to add bells and whistles. If needed, split up your feature rollout into multiple phases. For your initial website launch, you might only include your minimum functionality requirements, and then additional functionality can be added on as a second phase.

Whatever your approach, give yourself some wiggle room for fine-tuning functionality. Launching with unpolished features – or worse, broken features – on your website reflects poorly on your company.

Resources

In addition to your budget, website functionality can also be restricted by the resources you have available. This includes not only the technologies you use but your team as well.

Assess the tools that will run your website to determine what features are available. For example, if you’re using a content management system, what out-of-the-box features does it offer? Do you need to purchase plugins or look at third-party functionality to enable desired functionality?

Evaluate the skill set of the team building your website as well. Do they have the expertise needed to implement the features you want on your website? Do they work with the technologies required?

Overall, make sure the functionality requirements factor in the resources available to you and fall within their capabilities. Keep in mind that for any third-party functionality, you should thoroughly review options and limitations to ensure you have reasonable expectations for integration.

Content

Your website content is another tool to further guide your technical needs. Consider what types of content you plan to have, and if they need any specific features to be displayed properly.

For example, are you planning to write blog posts? If so, then you’ll need to have some type of blogging functionality. Do you have photo galleries? Then you’ll need to determine how to present them.

Make a list of any special content you’ll have and decide what features will be needed to display it properly.

Common types of website functionality

If you’re struggling to come up with which features your website will needs, check this list of popular functionality options for ideas:
  • In-site search
  • Blog/news
  • Video library
  • Photo gallery
  • Search
  • Forms
  • Event calendar
  • Social sharing tool
  • Location map
These are just a few examples of different types of functionality that you may want to incorporate in your website. For more inspiration, go out and explore other websites and see what features stand out to you.

Defining technical details

Once you’ve decided on the features for your website, the final step is to clearly map it out.

To avoid any confusion moving forward, write up each feature, and define your expectations. Be as detailed as possible regarding how it should function, how users will interact with it, and any other relevant information. Provide examples where possible for further clarification.

Anyone involved in the decision-making process should review and sign off on these details before moving forward. This will help to avoid any miscommunication when it comes time to pass things off to the website development team.
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Kayleigh

About the author | Kayleigh Circle

Kayleigh is a web developer at TBH Creative, specializing in front-end development and responsive design. She likes to blog about a variety of web design topics, including design tips, the latest trends in the industry, and how to make your website more successful.

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