Whether you’re adding a new feature aimed at driving business growth or simply updating your site’s aesthetic appeal, every brand finds themselves updating their website at one point or another.
In fact, it’s practically required for businesses that want to remain relevant in their industry. Companies that hope to not just survive, but thrive in the market need to integrate new design trends, unique elements, and innovative technology.
These updates, often in the shape of new website functionalities (both big and small), can help brands stay on the forefront of their industry, continually capture consumers, and constantly increase revenue.
However, adding a new website feature to an already-existing site can be tricky.
When you’re building a new website, you have the luxury of making changes without needing to take current user experience into account.
But consumers are already using your website. So, you’ll need to design, develop and launch your new feature while still ensuring that your target audience can use your website seamlessly and without interruption.
Although it’s a tricky process, I’ll take you through a few simple tips that will help you determine if a new feature will improve your business and how to incorporate that web feature into your platform without alarming users.
1. Conduct Plenty Of Research Beforehand
The key to executing a successful feature launch online is to conduct plenty of research before you begin investing time, money and energy into building it.
Take stock of your consumers and determine what their current experience with your brand online is like.
Do you have adequate user experience? Is it clear and easy for them to navigate the site and complete a purchase? Are there any other problems your consumers face that you could solve? Will a new feature improve user experience or your ultimate goal for consumers?
Many users will tell brands exactly what they want or need online, whether that is through direct comments or user behavior patterns, which can be tracked through your site’s analytics.
For instance, as a former agency founder and executive, I knew how difficult it can be for businesses to find the right agency for their upcoming projects. I understood what a draining and time-consuming task it could be. So, I created DesignRush.com, a B2B marketplace connecting brands with agencies.
But DesignRush wasn’t always a B2B marketplace. It was first a digital design trends magazine, then an agency directory site, listing thousands of top agencies across full-service digital agencies, marketing, websites, mobile apps, branding, software, technology and beyond.
Throughout the beginning stages of DesignRush, though, I realized that the industry could benefit from a third-party that helped brands find qualified agencies and agencies find qualified leads. After conducted copious market research, I decided that this new marketplace functionality would be beneficial to DesignRush, and we started creating it.
However, keep in mind that there may be other improvements that consumers will appreciate that they may not have even thought of. Don’t rely on them to give you all of the answers. Even if your business is growing at a steady pace and revenue isn’t an issue, your competitors may think of a feature that could steal your customers away.
Therefore, it is in your best interest to constantly research your consumers, competitors and personal performance to determine any potential improvements that can solidify your place at the top of the market or help you get there.
2. Maintain (Or Improve) Your Customer Journey
Once you determine which new functionality you’d like to add to your website, you’ll have to work with your developers to determine how it will be built and integrated into your already-existing platform.
However, you should take care to ensure that your interface, user experience, and customer journey don’t change so much that your site is rendered unrecognizable after the new feature is pushed live – especially if your site is already performing well.
Double check your analytics to see what aspects of your website, navigations, calls to action, checkout processes or other elements do their job well and which ones underperform. Then, ensure your new feature leaves the elements that are critical to success untouched.
The idea of maintaining your existing customer journey also harkens back to the importance of branding. Whether your new feature demands a complete website redesign, a simple additional landing page, or anything in between, make certain it follows your existing brand standards. It should utilize similar colors, aesthetics, copywriting, and ultimately promote your brand’s mission and core values.
By taking the time to cultivate your user experience, branding and customer journeys, your consumers will recognize your brand more easily and feel more familiar with your new feature, which could help it see strong success rates as well.
In fact, brands that are consistently shown can generate up to 23 percent more revenue, according to a study from Lucidpress.
Conversely, drastic and immediate changes could alienate your users and turn them off from your brand as a whole.
3. Test Thoroughly Before You Take It Live
In order to maximize positive reception and minimize critiques and blowback, test your feature before you take it live. Then test it again. And test it again after that.
In fact, make sure your quality assurance (QA) team tests your new feature from every angle. In addition, they should test neighboring pages, links, and functionalities that could be affected by your new feature.
For instance, as my team was building the DesignRush marketplace feature, we allotted for extra padding in our timeline that would enable us to test all functionalities.
We knew that if we pushed our new online feature live before it was ready, we risked compromising the high-quality UX design we spent years perfecting. And even a momentary glitch in our front-facing interface could reap long-term ramifications for our users and, as a result, DesignRush.
You might be itching to take your new web feature live – but don’t. It is far better to take the extra time to ensure it works properly and doesn’t affect other areas of your website than to rush the process, push a flawed feature live, and ultimately anger users only to spend even more time and energy fixing what you broke.
4. Adjust Your Feature Based On User Feedback
The fact of the matter is that not every feature you roll out will be hit. Now, that doesn’t mean your new feature is not a great idea or doesn’t solve an incredible problem. It simply means that, at the end of the day, we can’t force our consumers to use something.
Although the digital age gives us access to tons of data, research, behavior patterns and other information about consumers that empowers us to draw intelligent conclusions about them, we aren’t actually in their heads and don’t actually know what they are thinking.
Thus, we can make an educated guess about users, but that’s just it – it’s a guess. And it could be wrong.
So, if your consumers provide you with feedback on your feature, be grateful – they’re telling you exactly what they do (or don’t!) want, and you can use that information to make adjustments to the feature.
And if you find that your feature is, to put it bluntly, a failure, don’t be afraid to scrap the entire idea and revert to your old functionalities. Not every improvement is going to be a hit, but you’ll eventually find the features that your consumers appreciate.