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What is function led design?

I was watching a You Tube video recently that was promoting the benefits of function led design. This reminded me of where I first came across the approach that we use at Ayrmer Software to successfully drive forward both our web and software projects.

A few years a go I attended a Web conference at the Eden Project in Cornwall where one of the speakers (a web designer) described a  epiphany he was having in terms of his approach to web design.

For years he had approached Web Design projects focusing on the aesthetics first. This often meant undertaking many revisions of the design (in some cases 40 " 50 drafts) going back and forth between the designer and the client. On a number of occasions this meant that budgets were quickly swallowed up and certain important elements such as the contact form had to be cobbled together at the end.  He pointed out that by focussing too much on the aesthetics initially, often the most important elements such as the contact form or the other business objectives  were not dealt with properly.

He stated that  commercial websites have a business function whether it is to sell a product, or promote a service. He argued that the business objectives need to come first and that the functionality relating to those objectives needs to be addressed before any design is done.  He actually said that all the content for the website should be written before the design work is started, which I think may be going a little too far.

When I worked as an IT Adviser I used to say that there are three key elements in creating a successful website. In order of importance:

  • Good Marketing
  • Good Build
  • Good Design

When I say “Good Marketing” I mean having an understanding of the clients business objectives for the website and the wider context they operate in. We use a process called “Well Formed Outcomes” to help ensure we get the right objectives. Once the objectives are clear you then build the framework to enable the objectives to function. The design then has a crucial role  to ensure the functionality is enhanced, presented and promoted effectively to enable the user to have the optimal experience. This in turn should enable them to complete the stated outcomes / business objectives. I.e. buy an item / service, contact the company or download a brochure etc.

Design is important but if you place too much weight on it you can lose sight of the objectives in the details of the aesthetics.

What we recommend is a balanced approach where the the design process is led by the business objectives.

Conclusion

Function Led Design is basically a process where the business objectives are first and foremost in the process. Everything from the build to the design to the marketing is focused on making sure the business objective are achieved.

Our approach to function led design is born out of working to get the balance right for the business. This means that there shouldn’t be last a minute scramble to cobble together an important element of the website and that budgets will be maintained.

Date: 25/08/2011

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