Every second you spend on any site is an experience. Whether you are shopping for a specific product. Catching up on your favorite blog. Or watching the newest episode of that show you’d never admit you binged watched last week. You are experiencing that site.

Users are as observant as the developers who build them. Yes, they may not know the functionality or the integration of a site, but they can recognize when “something works just like that other site”. If a site functions similar to another site they frequently use, they will be more inclined to browse.

Many times developers (or sites) mistake “familiar” with “boring”. The key to a great site is a balance between functionality, fun, and familiarity.

Why Using the Internet is Like Driving a Car

Many times innovation fights familiarity rather than embracing it. This is not to discredit the innovations that challenge the norm or create new ideas, but to completely throw away all elements that users are familiar with is shaky ground. If you can think of the top social media sites, and or top trending apps, chances are at the core they all mimic similar functionality. Users “like” or “heart” a post, “retweet”, “revine”, or “share”; it’s the same concepts/actions just with different names. New apps (or sites) that mimic these functionalities are more easily adopted by users since the time it will take to get used to using that site is greatly decreased.

Think of it like driving a friends car. If you drive a similar make, model, and size, it won’t seem like such an overwhelming experience. There may be different features or the radio functions differently than yours, but the overall experience is generally the same. It’s familiar.

Now, driving a new car is immediately exciting until you have to take the time to figure out how it all works before you can leave the parking lot. There is a natural excitement to the new and cutting-edge, but you still need some familiarity to encourage others to want to drive it.

Keep in mind the reasons why the conventional became the norm and the things we can adopt rather than abandon. This will encourage our users to experience the site rather than taking the time to figure out how to use it.

Bring the Fun Back to Functionality to Increase Engagement

To sell a product, bring awareness to a current issue or booking a service. A site’s functionality is created to further its purpose and not hinder it. Although functionality doesn’t have to be so black and white. It can be a way to engage beyond the sale or create a recurring relationship with users. Functionality can get watered down to the basics of what a site needs and not what can engage the user.

Bringing the fun back to functionality is more than just a play on words, it’s the idea of creating sites for the users to experience not just use. Users may not always acknowledge the ways a site caters to their needs, but they will notice when a site does not. Creating a site that not only captures the user’s attention but also functions in a non-confusing and engaging way is the key to bridging the gap between experiencing a site and simply using one.

About the Author

Michelle Valdez is a Web Developer at OMNI Online Solutions. Working closely with her team, she ensures that every website uses the industry’s best practices in design, development, and security. She is always looking for ways to improve user experience for clients at OMNI.

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