Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Dealing with rapid change--Separate Form from Function

I've been programming since 1966. As change accelerated and programmers had to maintain existing software to deal with rapid organisational change, separating form and function became standard practice for all developers. The concept is spelt out beautifully by Ben Hunt:
There is a natural trade-off between functional and aesthetic richness.

You can't have something that is at the same time both an excellent high-functionality application and a great work of online art.

That point falls outside the sphere of design. The reason for this is that things that have the highest aesthetic beauty and impact cause you to stop and look at them, while things that are most functionally effective help you to do the job you want to achieve without being looked at. The two can't happen at the same time.

The most functional web sites are those that are information-rich, quick to load and totally obvious to use. While they can also be pleasing and attractive, their focus on function would be compromised if they were extremely visually impacting.

Likewise, the most beautiful designs - the ones that make you stop and stare - are rich in visually-stimulating elements. While they can certainly also be highly usable, they cannot also feature the weight of highly functional features that would also put them at the very top of the functional quality scale. [Ben Hunt, The Web Doctor]