Damian Semple
by Damian Semple

A to Z of Website Features and Design

A to Z of Website Features and Design

Do you know your mega menus from your RS-S?

Ice creams come in many flavours, so it’s worth checking out the latest - corn-on-the corn with black pepper? Web design is very similar. Before you decide what you want, you need to know what’s available. You may have seen features on other company’s sites that you like, and you want to emulate those, but there’s a whole universe of options. Do you know your mega menus, GoogleBots and Splashscreens from your RSs?

A to Z of Website Feature and Design

Take a look through this table of features and think how some of these might benefit your business or organisation. Many of these will help to put a message out in a more efficient way, so it’s well worth thinking through your options before committing. Ask your experienced web design company, like Calico, for their opinion on how some of these can benefit your business.

Accept cookies pop-out Most websites operate with tracking data, such as Google Analytics, which offers valuable insight into how many visitors come to your site, what keywords they use to find you and what content they look at, etc. These applications deploy cookies in order to provide you with this information. Cookies are very small text files which are stored on your PC, laptop, mobile phone or tablet when you visit a website. All websites owned in the EU or targeted towards EU citizens, are now expected to comply with EU Directive and inform consumers about how information about them is collected by websites. That’s why we have the Accept Cookies pop-up.

Aggregator Small websites can provide a large, wide-ranging number of stories by aggregating news from other media institutions or social media sources. Aggregation can also pull in a diversity of voices into a single site. Use this to get your site notice by a diverse range of visitors.

Blog/News post Blogs are like news, except typically more informal. They often allow users to navigate posts by date, category and tags, and showcase blog authors with thumbnails. They invite feedback via comment forms – these can be pre- or post-moderated. Whether you have a special interest or want to publish content for search engine ranking purposes, each website we build comes with blog capabilities.

Call back form A call back form lets client know that you’re prepared to do the chasing. ever site should have one.

Case studies Case studies give consumers the confidence to trust a product or service by providing third-party validation of a product’s usefulness. A case study shows the values and products in action, taking users on a specific journey through the usage of a specific product or service. This word-of-mouth validation helps consumers make purchasing decisions. Customer stories are invaluable pieces of marketing collateral; case studies let you maximise their potential. They can provide follow-up material for presentations, which can then be shared in places like SlideShare, and boost SEO across platforms.

Client log-in / Customer Private area Member-only areas are accessible only to authenticated users. The content shared in this space is usually more secure and cannot be indexed by search engines. An example might be a solicitor’s practice using it to share legal documents. Restricting content access to certain parts of your website is one of the most popular ways of monetising your content, so a private section is well worth considering.

Content Management System Otherwise known as a CMS, the Content Management System allows users to securely update their website content, crucially without affecting the design and layout. Most CMS’ use templates or themes to separate design from content.

Custom error pages Without fail, visitors will visit pages that do not exist. Perhaps an external website linked to a wrong page. Or maybe they mistakenly entered a url in their browser. By creating custom error pages, you can provide your users with a seamless user experience and provide them quick access to whatever they are looking for.

Discussion forum Discussion forums used to be widely used, however there’s now many better ways to engage visitors with existing widely used social media - Facebook, Insta, Twitter. Unless you have millions of visitors, like a newspaper, it’s unlikely to be worth the cost of implementing.

Email Opt-in/newsletter All websites should contain some form of lead capture whether it is through a basic contact form, widget, or pop-up. Many customers who regularly post new blogs and those who have multiple lead capture microsites utilise the email opt-in to gather the names and email addresses of those who frequent the website or want additional information.

Events Calendar / Diary A great way for a site to present itself as a go-to resource for events in a community is to provide an online calendar. Similar to news postings, the client can manage the events via a CMS, if they wish, or integrate with an existing calendar application.

Exit surveys / Website Exit Surveys An exit survey involves displaying a message to the visitor when they land on the site, asking if they wouldn’t mind providing some feedback after their visit is over. Running an exit survey allow you to gain insight into why users are leaving your webpage/site and gain feedback as to their experiences with the site. This may be extremely valuable in increasing your conversion rates.

FAQs/Knowledge base Frequently asked questions (FAQ) or Questions and Answers (Q&A), are listed questions and answers, all supposed to be commonly asked in some context, and pertaining to a particular topic. It’s particularly useful where certain common questions tend to recur. Like an online help desk, it will provide invaluable support for making purchasing decisions.

General contact form A contact form allows users to send queries directly to your inbox. This can contain fields pertinent to your offering. The modern approach to contact forms is to build ‘pieces’ of data which can then be put together behind the scenes to build a more complete picture of user behaviour. If you have registration forms, collect information for new customers, or have online applications, these can all be fluently embedded into the website for easy submission and collection of information.

Image slideshow gallery Pictures are worth a thousand shares! Image galleries are a great way to showcase projects, portfolios, events, facilities and products. They can be built as a feed from other social media platforms like Picasa or Flickr.

Language translator Google provides a very useful language translator (that’s surprisingly good) for automatically translating all your content into another language, which helps to drive sales/participation from overseas visitors. It can be implemented within any website.

Live chat The ability to offer instant help to a customer before they get frustrated is an incredible way to build customer satisfaction. And the personal nature of chat both increases customer friendliness and affinity with the company. Live Chat and other services can help secure sales, providing you have the resources to back it up.

Mega drop-down menu Mega menus are large navigation panels that typically drop down or fly out from a global nav bar. Unlike regular drop-downs, they don’t hide so many options within submenus and index pages: users can see all of their options, rather than being forced to rely on their short-term memory. If you’ve got a lot of content that you need to manage within your navigation system that could easily get overwhelming with traditional dropdowns, you might need to get mega!

News ticker - Scrolling latest headlines A news ticker usually resides at the top or the bottom of your screen and displays news headlines from your latest posts

Online appointment booking system Appointment booking is a great way to gain marketing insight. Customers can book online 24/7—wherever they are—and select the time that works for them. Appointment scheduling allows you to improve your services, grow your business and reduce the amount of time you spend scheduling and playing phone tag with clients.

Press and Media Area If journalists can’t find what they’re looking for on a website, they might not include that company in their story. Journalists repeatedly said that poor website usability could reduce or completely eliminate their press coverage of a company.

Privacy Policy Generally speaking, websites that process personal data should include a privacy policy for the purposes of making these disclosures. Privacy policies can also be called privacy statements or privacy notices - or more rarely data protection policies, statements or notices. The primary purpose of a website privacy policy is to assist a website operator to comply with information disclosure obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 and related legislation. Failure to comply can lead to civil liability and criminal law penalties. All website owners should also have an appropriate terms or use document on their websites. If you are operating an ecommerce website, you should also consider an ecommerce terms and conditions documents.

Product catalogue A database-driven product catalogue, browsable by category and sortable by field or product features (eg: price, stock, size). Coupled with a content management system the product catalogue can provide a flexible and powerful way to promote and sell products and services. If this is the main service provided by the site (eg, a catalogue of stock that is currently ordered over the phone), the Product Catalogue can be upgraded to a full online shopping system at a later date should the client require it.

Quotation form Quotations can be streamlined with an online quote form that captures client data and requirements. Enquiries can be coded to send to the relevant departments directly, based on the product or service selected.

Resources download area See Client log-in area.

RSS News Centre (Really Simple Syndicate) The opposite of an aggregator. This pushes out news. All business websites should ideally have a news centre to publish keyword-rich updates on a regular basis. Frequency of updates boosts your Google crawl rate. News articles can also be populated with automated release and expiration dates for timed promotions and seasonal announcements. Include an RSS feed so users can subscribe to updates.

Search box One of the most basic functions of a website is a search feature which allows you to quickly find the content you need. Whether you have an extensive blog or documents customers will need to access, some kind of search is normally applicable to every website. A keyword search form allows users to find pages and resources quickly and is particularly recommended for large websites.

Sitemap - XML feed An XML sitemap is a document that helps Google and other major search engines better understand your website while crawling it. A sitemap is a file where you can list the web pages of your site to tell Google and other search engines about the organization of your site content. Search engine web crawlers like Googlebot read this file to more intelligently crawl your site. Googlebot and other web crawlers crawl the web by following links from one page to another. As a result, Google might not discover your pages if no other sites link to them.

Skill bars / Business strengths bar Skill bars represent a level of knowledge related to certain tasks – web design, illustration, branding, character design, you name it! Adding some fancy animations to these skill bars will provide a quicker connection to the viewer. The Skill Bar gives you an opportunity to show some info in a stylish and attractive way in a form of percentage bars. Skill Bars are very useful in personal portfolio site or site where you need to demonstrate some statistics.

Social bookmarking Social bookmarking is huge. It’s no secret that your customers use social media to judge the companies they might use. It’s even more important to embrace social media through your website. Buttons linked to your social media pages are popular, but we can do even more. Users use social bookmarking to organise favourite content and share it with others. It also helps in promoting your website and can generate massive traffic. A website should offer a shortcut for adding the web page using leading social bookmarking accounts.

Splash screen Modern examples of splash screens are built right into the main page, filling the screen with eye catching imagery but still only containing a logo or statement as the main piece of content. They act as a welcoming message to set the scene and entice the user before presenting them with the rest of the page.

Tabbed Content Sections Tabs allow content to be separated into different panes, where each pane is viewable one at a time. The user requests content to be displayed by clicking (or in some instances hovering over) the content’s corresponding tab control. Module tabs are seeing an increase of use as websites and web applications push for optimizing web page screen areas without sacrificing the amount of information presented at once. They enable a more unobtrusive and compact manner of presenting content.

Tags Tags are a way of organising content. Website users and admins set up Tags to relate articles and content to each other and other systems. But there’s another side to Tags that very useful to website owners - they can dramatically improve SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) Remember: Google is mapping out the world wide web of links; tags create links within websites based on keywords that users define.

Twitter Feed - Latest Tweets A twitter feed – embedded on your home or news page – is a great way to share short bursts of updates. It can also be used for emergency announcements (like phone lines being down) or technical support. Invite visitors to follow your corporate twitter account.

Vouchers Vouchers have changed the way people quantify value, and in many ways the entire online pricing structure. The ‘deal’ is everything. Think about Pizza Express. Have you ever paid full price to eat there? Or Zizzi? They’re entire pricing model is based around vouchers, coupons and deals. Their restaurants are packed and profits climbing. Vouchers may work for your business too.


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