| Jul 12, 2023 | | 8 min read

Defining website functionality for your clients: Onboarding tips and tricks


When you’re onboarding new SMB clients, one of the biggest hurdles is to find ways to help your latest additions understand everything that goes into creating a dynamic website.

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In this guide to website functionality, we’ll cover the basics of UX, plus insight into what types of functionalities are important and how you can interview clients to get to the heart of their most vital needs and goals.

What is website functionality?

How a website functions affects every user’s experience. But website functionality goes beyond whether someone likes your site or not. It also influences whether consumers can make a purchase, find crucial information, or indulge in some much-needed entertainment.

In short, website functionality encompasses all the features, buttons, forms, and other design elements that help visitors complete their desired task.

Why is website functionality important?

User-friendly website design — or the lack thereof — can easily make or break a business.

Imagine these scenarios:

  • Bob is looking for information about a company’s board of directors, but he can’t find any team information on the company’s website.
  • Tiana is shopping for new glasses. She finds a pair she likes, but there’s no button to add those sweet specs to her virtual cart.
  • Arturo is in love with his new gaming console and just read an awesome how-to guide on the company’s blog. Too bad the site hasn’t incorporated any social media links to enable sharing.


Each of those scenarios highlights how poor site functionality can negatively impact a brand by undermining credibility, preventing sales, and thwarting opportunities to build brand awareness.

Types of website functionality to consider

One of the best ways to understand the power of optimal website functionality is to take a closer look at the types of features and functions essential to stellar UX.

1. Navigation and user experience

Consumers should be able to navigate websites without requiring a road map — although a site map can come in handy.

  • Use a legible font
  • Avoid garish backgrounds
  • Use a header or pull-down menu to help point people in the right direction
  • Name your pages clearly and concisely (e.g., “About Us” instead of “All the People”)

2. E-commerce and shopping cart features

A poll of online shoppers found that the top reason people ditch their digital carts is because the checkout process is simply too long and involved (Digital Resource).

E-commerce companies must be meticulous about offering a seamless shopping experience that includes easily spotted Add to Cart and Buy Now buttons as well as a bug- and lag-free checkout process.

3. Search functionality and filters

Help people get where they’re going with a front-and-center search bar and filters that help consumers further refine their hunt for the perfect pants or a specific size wrench.

4. Forms and lead capture

Few things are more frustrating than a content gate that won’t disappear from the screen or a form that’s fully filled out yet refuses to submit. It pays to gather information about customers, but only if the tools used to mine that data don’t add friction to the user’s experience.

5. Social media integration

More than half of consumers turn to social media to discover new brands (Sprout Social). Including social media links or widgets on websites takes the legwork out of sharing blogs, videos, and webpages, resulting in free advertising with a side of consumer endorsement.

6. Mobile responsiveness

One of the biggest website design tips of the modern age is to ensure sites are optimized for the nearly 5 billion people accessing the internet via mobile devices (Statista). Designing for people who’ve swapped laptop access for browsing via smartphone or tablet leaves no doubt that a brand’s messaging (and inventory, images, and so on) can be viewed and enjoyed consistently.

7. Security and privacy features

Data breaches and network attacks can slow down websites, lead to major drops in traffic, and damage a company’s reputation. Include SSL certificate, web app firewalls, security scanners, and regular updates as part of your functionality plan to protect privacy and secure assets.

Questions to ask clients when determining their website needs and goals

Website functionality isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept. Different clients may have different asks or needs based on their industry or business plans — and the complexity only grows once you start considering outsourcing web design and development.

To help dial in your strategy, no matter how you’re selling or even reselling design services, develop a questionnaire that finds answers to the following queries.

1. What are their target audience and customer personas?

Some elements of web functionality are universal, but others can be fine-tuned depending on the target demographic. Use market research or client-provided data to inform the planning process.

2. What are their short-term and long-term goals?

Does the client want help with SEO? To increase conversions? A boost in overall brand awareness? Understanding where the client is now and where they want to go helps inform the big picture.

3. What are their pain points and challenges?

Use existing feedback and known challenges to design a site that automatically offers increased functionality. For instance, a company with analytics showing a bounce rate of 78 percent probably needs help improving navigation and engagement to keep consumers on site.

4. What's their budget for updating your website, and expectations for return on investment?

It can be incredibly tempting to invest in additional solutions that promise big returns. But the reality is that you should only be offering features that fit into the client’s budget and offer reasonable ROI.

5. What specific features or functionalities are important for their new website?

The must-have list of ecommerce website functionalities is different from the functionalities you might recommend for an angel investment platform. Sure, everyone likes a dynamic admin dashboard, but offering options for customization can only strengthen your pitch and better serve your clientele.

6. What's the timeline for their new website launch? Any milestones or events to hit along the way?

Know what you can realistically accomplish before the launch date. Then set milestones to help keep the client in the loop and your team on pace.

7. What kind of ongoing maintenance and support will they need?

Some clients demand 24/7 support via every channel possible. Others just want a user-friendly website builder or turnkey site that they’ll handle from launch onward. Ask where the client is at in terms of maintenance and support requirements so you can design and plan accordingly.

Tips for getting to the root of clients’ priorities and preferences

Always hope for full transparency, but be prepared to do a little digging to understand what the client truly wants. This way, you can build a tailored website functionality list and have confidence in your plan.

  • Research their industry and competition. Get an objective look at what’s working for the industry and what the client’s competitors are up to.
  • Review their existing website and marketing materials. Audit the client’s current assets and conduct a variety of tasks just like an actual consumer would. Search for info, try to make a purchase, sign up for their newsletter, and make a list of what needs to be changed.
  • Conduct surveys or interviews with their customers. Go straight to the people that matter to see what they think of the website. Ask specific questions and follow up if you need more details. Social media polls and social listening can also generate useful data.

How to balance and prioritize functionality when design your client’s website

If there’s one almost universal request among clients, it’s a desire to have it all. But there are limits to site functionality, especially when time and money are similarly restricted. Here’s how you can find balance and still make everyone happy.

  • Consider budget and time. Know what’s possible given the agreed-upon timeline and budget and stick to it. Sacrifices will be made, but if you can explain your rationale for including A and ditching B, reasonable clients should still sign off.
  • Identify must-have vs. nice-to-have functionality. Create a hierarchy of web functionality that prioritizes needs over wants. If you make it through the must haves with time and money to spare, you can start putting the icing on the cake.
  • Assess the feasibility and resources required for each feature. Don’t waste time pursuing a functionality that will take up more resources than its potential ROI can satisfy.
  • Account for ongoing maintenance and updates. Create a site that the client can operate given their predetermined level of commitment and known skill sets.

Frequently asked questions

What are the benefits of responsive website design for website functionality?

All respectable web design services know that responsive websites are an essential part of doing business. Responsive sites load faster, convert more, have better SEO, require less maintenance, and typically pull in more traffic.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when defining website functionality?

Avoid giving website functionality a singular definition. Crucial ecommerce website functionalities may differ from the features required by non-ecommerce websites. Always consider the client’s individual needs and industry, and be sure to balance aesthetics and utility.

About the Author

Lawrence Dy is the SEO Strategy Manager at Vendasta. His career spans from starting as a Jr. Copywriter in the automotive industry to becoming a Senior Editorial Content Manager in various digital marketing niches. Outside of work, Lawrence moonlights as a music producer/beatmaker and spends time with friends and family.

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