Which Features Should Your Website Have?

Which Features Should Your Website Have?

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Website functionality can be a little confusing. Here, we discuss three popular tools.  If you’re considering them, think about the best way to add them to your website, and ensure you and the developer are on the same page.

Password Areas

Some websites require users to enter a username and password. This feature is often implemented because the website has one or more of the following needs:

  • A secure area for viewing content
  • Contributor login for adding content
  • Registration for comments
  • Shopping carts

It’s important to know how these items are set up. When creating a password area, think about how users will login – using email address and password or username and password? Having visitors use email addresses is a way for you to monitor and keep members from duplicating memberships. You need to consider what the process is for your users to change their email addresses. The second feature you want to think about is the password and an item known as the “forgot password” feature. This will allow users to retrieve their existing password or have the system assign a new one. Which way would you like this feature to work? Or are you thinking of a third option – sending users to a link that prompts them to create a new password? The point is, when you meet with your developer, you need to explain your expectations. If you don’t know what you want, ask the developer to explain how they see this feature working. Depending on what you’re password-protecting, ask yourself what security level you need. How will users’ information be protected? Don’t make assumptions when dealing with developers.

Feedback Forms

Online forms are wonderful tools for collecting customer information. Some are linked to a database so when data is entered via the Web, it’s stored for future use. Others are designed to capture data and send it via email to someone in the company; the data is not stored anywhere else. A form can also be set up to collect data into a text file or csv (comma separated values) file format and email the company administrator. Each type involves different set-up costs and programming requirements.

Be upfront about what you want your form to do, if you want your data stored, and how you want your users to be notified or redirected once the form is submitted. Most of today’s forms provide a captcha field (a challenge-response test) to ensure that the form was filled out by a human. What about the functionality of revealing a field if a customer chooses a certain option from a drop box? Clearly outline what you want your forms to do, how you want them to store information, and how you want them to direct your visitors.

Content management systems

Content is the heart of today’s websites, and managing that content with a content management system (CMS) is one of the most import decisions you need to make. Evaluating the right CMS is also one of the most difficult processes because of the various opinions, options and functions available.

Conduct a needs analysis

What do you need your CMS to do? Do you want it to provide SEO-friendly URLs and individual page control for titles and metadata? Will it need to support different layout designs for different sections? Will you be adding new features to your website in the next few months? What functions are you planning for? Video, additional forms, a blogging feature or possibly a member area? Is your CMS scalable? Are there third-party applications already designed and ready to work with your CMS, or will your developer have to write something from scratch?

Test the compentency required to use the system

Next, look at who will be editing the content. What is this person’s comfort with technology? Some CMS systems are easier to use than others. Ask your developer what CMS systems they recommend and why. Some developers use one CMS system, while others work with two or three. After you talk to the people you trust, find some time to demo the CMS either through a Web meeting or an online demo. Remember that we all have expectations when it comes to how we see our websites functioning. That’s why it’s crucial to explain your expectations to your developer in great detail, use examples to illustrate your needs, and ask lots of questions.

Jennifer Shaheen
The eMarketing and Technology Therapist®, Jennifer Shaheen, is an expert at helping small and mid sized companies leverage technology to capitalize on current and future marketing objectives. Her business, The Technology Therapy Group, empowers small businesses to market their products and services through web development, web design and web marketing.