The debate of design vs functionality is highly important in the web design community, and open to much discussion. Ultimately it seems a balancing act between creating a visually impressive website without jeopardizing the usability is essential.
If the website seems to be tricky to navigate then customers are likely to leave the site altogether, which defeats the object of having a web presence to promote your company and increase sales in the first place.
After some research we have discovered that functionality goes hand in hand with knowing your target audience. This is key to the design of the entire site, as designers will need to make the website accessible and appealing to this market.
For example, a website built for information or to promote services to the older generation of online user’s needs clarity, bold navigation which easily guides the viewer through the website and doesn’t alter from page to page – both of which will reassure the user. Coupled with this a predictable and logical layout, with a design that compliments the content, are also required.
Evidently this particular generation of web users will utilize websites such as the CNN, NY Times or an ecommerce site like Overstock.com, which all ensure functionality takes precedence over groundbreaking website designs.
For the younger target audience or the design community, an opportunity to be creative and experiment with the parameters of web design is present. They can either be for an individual bespoke client or a portfolio site.
Some of the most innovative designs are evident in portfolio sites especially for creative industries, obviously website design as well as graphic design, fashion, illustration, film and photography.
Design takes priority over the functionality here, as the designer will presume that the target audience is web savvy and capable of exploring the site with a keen eye, quickly familiarizing themselves with the style and order in which the site is to be viewed in.
The user is prompted and stimulated with clever uses of flash galleries and the use of jQuery in the navigation, content and layout – all contributing to the interactivity of the site. Because of these elements it could potentially alienate the older web community from viewing a site like this, but because the designer knows the target audience this allows a free rein to showcase their skills and create a unique and exceptional website unlike anybody else.
There is an expectation within the design community that when you design your own portfolio website that it will be brimming with design, with functionality almost a secondary concern as the aesthetics are key. Tools such as nifty drop downs allow the site to be minimalistic yet pleasing on the eye.
So discussions of design vs functionality remain open to debate, but discovering and understanding your target audience seems a constant theme throughout. This allows the designer to gauge the balance between web design and functionality, and which should take priority.