Websites should “work” for you — A form follows function principle.
At unQut, building websites for corporations and individuals has always meant more to us than work. It is something we are passionate about and it is always rewarding to build a thing of beauty that serves a greater purpose — communication. Consulting on the design and development of web solutions for start-ups and multi-national corporations means we have to always be guided by the principle of “form follows function”. We follow this so well, and find it is an excellent way of achieving maximum utility while maintaining a beautiful architecture!
We always take adequate time to get to know the client and explore their technical requirements together so we can have a good perspective of what they want to communicate. As soon as we understand this, we can begin to give form to the service to be provided.
This is based on a lesson we learned from the one time we actually overlooked this principle. It was on the last place you would think: our own website. We were overly excited about how it would look and never took the time to think through what we really wanted to achieve. Here’s how we committed and learned from our mistake:
We are an Internet company, most of our works are visual (mobile apps, web services, social media campaigns, etc.) and this is a huge selling point for companies in our industry. So we started off with the form, and it looked great! We made sure it also had most of the materials we wanted our visitors to see. Surely, if visitors liked what they saw, they could contact us by filling the contact form or through our contact details translating to conversion. If this was just our form, what would be its function?
It was naïve to think that we would able to convert visitors to paying customers through our contact form. We, initially, thought that visitors sending us messages from our website’s contact form was the final destination, and hence, the major function of the website. For our purposes, this couldn’t be more wrong. The function of the site was misplaced, so it took a different form — a merely beautiful showcase!
Q. What is the core function of a website?
A. The core function of every website is personal. The basic website pagination (Home, About and Contact us) for websites is what it is: Basic and Generic! For us, we needed to identify beyond aesthetics, the purposes our website was supposed to serve. How these functions would reduce communication gaps and play an online front desk role for us.
Q. How was the old website flawed?
A. We had leads from the old website through the contact form but this only led to more work. Our most requested document is an invoice/quotation, and because every project is unique, we had to evaluate every quotation on its merit — scope of work, timelines, budget, technology, platform, etc. Our old website increased this workload tenfold. This wouldn’t have been so much of a pain if every quotation sent out resulted in securing actual work. Conversion rate for every 100 quotations/invoices sent out is roughly about 8%, and because we had no idea which request would open an account every quotation had to be carefully considered.
For a technology company, we shouldn’t be writing this blog in the first place but you know what they say about the carpenters… Our website was supposed to work for us, not lead to more work that could otherwise be automated. So we re-imagined a website that actually works for us, a website that was more than a showcase, a website that acts as a front desk for us so we focus on what really matters — the actual execution of work! This would be the function.
We implemented an invoice request form called Start A Project in the V1 of our new website. The form breaks down the project into project type, category, budget, timelines, etc. This way, by the time we received the request, we have a good idea of how much it would cost to execute the project and could quickly respond. The form also generates a standard NDA for the user to cover any confidential information that may be disclosed to us.
In V2 of the new website, we would deploy a complete invoice generator that generated a downloadable invoice for the user. Invoices generated would depend on the user’s project specifics and details. Previously, this was something we did manually countless times a week and shifting over to our websites would increase available man hours while streamlining our entire operations.
And if you just function properly then things will form themselves — Lupe Fiasco