Before we get started with the list of best website features for small business, we have to define features.
What are Website Features?
There are a lot of articles with similar titles that suggest things like “simple to use navigation” or a “call to action” as features. If these are really features, then they should be considered standard features that every website should have.
Here are some things we’d consider standard for a website even though there is a lot of website design and development that doesn’t measure up:
- Great Visual and Functional Design
- Easy to Use Navigation
- Search Engine Friendly setup
- Well written content
- Security Measures Included
- Mobile Friendly
What we’re talking about with features are things that not everyone is doing and may not be right for every site. However, they provide improvements in customer experience, your company’s experience or both. Some are improvements over the standard features you’d find on most websites.
1. Responsive Design
Doesn’t this fit into mobile friendly? Yes it does, but we’ll include responsive design as a feature because many web designers are not doing this yet. Why is mobile friendliness important? Mobile website use is climbing rapidly. The Pew Research Center tracks Internet related data and has found that 58% of American adults have smartphones and 42% have tablets. Those numbers are growing rapidly, increasing the chances that customers on screens smaller than a desktop monitor will be trying to access your website regularly. Unfortunately, designs for desktops don’t always work well on tablets and they certainly don’t work well on smartphones.
So at the very least you need some type of mobile friendly solution. The options are pretty much:
- Dynamic Serving of pages based on device type
- A dedicated Mobile Site
- Responsive Design
Why go with responsive design over the other options?
- Google actually recommends responsive design as the preferred option.
- Responsive design makes keeping your website updated simpler. With both of the other options, you generally have to make content updates to more than one page, which can get pretty time consuming if you make even semi-regular updates.
- Another benefits of responsive design is that you can provide your entire website and all its content to mobile users. Most dedicated mobile sites allow users with only a handful of pages and sometimes no way to view the entire site. If the information that a customer is looking for doesn’t show up on a mobile site, then they will go elsewhere.
2. Advanced Contact Forms
Providing contact information on a website comes in many forms. The easiest way to add a contact email to a website is creating a link. There are a lot of reasons to use a contact form over just dropping an email address on a page.
- Protects your email address from scrapers and spammers
- Allows for additional interaction with customers on Thank You pages
- Allows for tracking if leads came from online advertising
- Force potential customers to provide more specific information than they might otherwise provide
- Allows for advanced functions to enhance the user experience.
For these reasons, contact forms have become pretty standard across websites. However, the most common contact form is great for simple requests, but not always the best way for you to handle all requests.
Sometimes you want to be able to ask for specific information from a customer.
Here is a sample of an appointment request contact form we created for a dental client of ours that collects the basic contact information from the patient and allows them to request an appointment at a specific date and time. Additional information about the reason for their appointment helps the front office staff at the dental office to provide answers and find an alternative appointment time if the one being requested is not available.
Sometimes you may want to ask for specific information from certain types of customers. To keep from annoying customers we can create a contact form that only shows certain fields when the answer to a previous question creates the need for more information. If a customer is asked how they’d like to be contacted, the form could only show the field for address, if they asked for something in the mail. This helps create a better customer experience.
Another example is using the response on a contact form to route the request to the appropriate person inside your company. You could use this to route sales inquiries to salespeople and service inquiries to customer service representatives or any number of other scenarios.
Other things we’ve done with contact forms:
- Contest Entries that automatically stop after a limited number of entries
- Require checking a disclaimer box prior to sending emails for our law firm clients.
3. Blogs or Article Databases for Content Marketing
Relevance matters in how your website ranks and as the search engines continue to try to improve the quality of the results they give you, the one thing that has remained important for being relevant is good quality content.
We’ve seen many times how a great article about an evergreen topic can increase the traffic on your website significantly. But not all websites are set up to handle regular changes, especially if you don’t have technical minded person working in your office. You can hire someone, including us, to handle writing and posting new articles or you can make sure your website is set up so pretty much anyone that can use a word processor can add articles. Even if you don’t plan on creating a bunch of great articles right now, it is better to set up a website that can easily handle this type of feature than to spend a great deal of money on redevelopment in a year when you decide that a company blog is actually really important.
4. Portfolios or Product Collections
For many businesses, having a portfolio or product display section is important to helping sell customers on the business. Manufacturers that don’t sell directly online can still benefit from a showcase of their products, whether to provide information for business-to-business sales or to drive interest in their products at the retail level. We can build sortable portfolios, so users can more easily find just what they are looking for without going through the menu.
5. Client or Member Login Area
Sometimes you may want to provide additional information to your customers that you don’t really want a competitor to easily access. We’ve put member areas in place for non-profit groups to share information (notes, meeting minutes, contact directories) that only members can see. If there are forms, photos, or documents you want to make only available to customers or employees, a member only area is one solution.
There are numerous other features that you could want on your website. Here’s just a short list of some other functionality you might want.
- Offer tutorials or training and track progress
- Engage users with quizzes, surveys and polls
- Simple way for company employees to update the website
Sometimes these can help you learn more about your customers or make their experience better. You have to be careful that you don’t waste money on “features” that actually make your site less attractive to new customers or less user friendly.