Website Design: Form Vs Function

Style Vs Function Aesthetics or Practicality Matrix Choose BothWhat makes a good website? The answer to this can change depending on who you ask. A web developer might say that a good website should work flawlessly and is easy to navigate. A designer might answer that a website needs to look appealing and catch the eye. If you ask the same question to an average person on the street and they might say something like: “A good website would look like Apple’s.” All of these opinions are right in some way. When designing a website, the main goal should be to aim for a balance between form and function.

We very recently replaced all our desks in the office with new contemporary glass surface desks. They look great and very modern. Once they were set up I realized that my mouse no longer works because the laser on the bottom shines right through the table. There were not enough mouse pads in the office for everyone to use, so to combat the problem, I taped a piece of paper to the top of the desk. So even though our desks are new and good looking, they don’t work as well as the old desks.

I tell this story as a perfect example of choosing form over function. The form of a website is important for catching the eye of visitors and ensuring that they stay. However, focusing on form at the cost of function can be problematic. A website can look beautiful with crisp images or videos, a trendy parallax design, and catchy slogans; but without good navigation, it won’t encourage people to return.

A good function has to be built with form in mind. For instance, you can’t fix the previous example website by sticking some navigation buttons at the top. That creates the same problem as my desk with its piece of paper taped onto it. The goal is to find an equilibrium between the two. Sure there are examples of successful websites that only one aspect. Craigslist is the most popular classified pages in the world and it has almost entirely focused on function. These examples are few and far between though, and most sites like this were designed years ago before this trend became a standard.