Build your website on goals not features

By Phil Vinall

Building a website based on features alone stifles innovation and can dilute business objectives. Learn to focus on the 'why' not the 'how' and build your website based on goals.

When approaching a new website or application, there is a temptation to focus solely on the features you want it to have; “let’s have a homepage slider” or “we need a contact form”. Features are exciting, easy to visualise, and give the impression of quickly scoping a site. However features that sit in isolation, without context and without reason, have no inherit value - they don’t do anything except exist.

Instead, try concentrating on the goal you are wanting to achieve. If you can clearly articulate what you are trying to achieve or the problem you are trying to solve, you will be in a better frame of mind to discover the feature that provides that solution. Innovation can only occur if we are asking the right questions instead of focusing on solutions that already exist. 

For example, instead of saying “we need a homepage slider” let's articulate the goal “we need to make our visitors aware of our key products so they can find and buy them”. By concentrating on the goal instead of the feature, we can now look at possible solutions that can fulfill that goal, in other words our feature now has context, reason, and value. 

With our firm goal in mind, we can ask the right questions to help form the solution; “how many key products are there”, “do they change regularly”, “what if we focused on only one product”, “do you have budget for video”, “if your product is digital can we just launch them into a free trial”, “how will they buy the product”, “what would normally prevent visitors from buying the product”. The answers to each of these questions could shape a very different feature to a homepage slider, one that is better suited to achieving the goal. We could end up with a 90 second video introducing a key product that ends with a buy now link, or a special landing page for first time visitors, or the homepage could instead be a free basic version of the product to get people hooked on it before we introduce the pay wall (see moqups.com, our favorite wire framing tool, for an example of this).

By focusing on goals you can create features uniquely tailored and attractive to your target users and clearly meet your business objectives. 

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