Form Follows Function

"Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling work-horse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and this is the law. Where function does not change, form does not change. The granite rocks, the ever-brooding hills, remain for ages; the lightning lives, comes into shape and dies, in a twinkling. It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law."

Over 120 years ago, architect Louis Sullivan wrote these words in the article The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered. He observed that, while necessary, a beautiful look for a building came after the building being useful for its purpose.

You don’t have to be an architect to know this is true. None of us buys a house solely because it is beautiful; it has to function properly, like having the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms, for it to work for you and your family.

The same can be said for print design work as well. You can have a designer create the most beautiful brochure, flyer or pamphlet, but if it does not accurately convey who you are as a company in an easy-to-understand format, it will not result in conversions, or potential customers contacting you for work.

And although it came a little after Louis Sullivan’s time (OK, a lot after), a website is no different. Myspace is a perfect example; the top social network in its day, it failed when it could not provide the interaction between its members that the upstart Facebook could. So although Myspace was more aesthetically pleasing (or less, depending on your point of view), once again form follows function, and Facebook, with its higher degree of interactivity and usefulness, wins out.

To this end, there are three types of web companies you will encounter:

  • The web designers – They know what it takes to make an attractive website that will hopefully garner attention and conversions. As for the functional side, they tend to rely on the hard work of others to create plugins and components that will give their websites the desired function.
  • The web developers – Web developers, tend to be the more extreme interpretation of "form follows function." Their websites are easy to navigate and give the necessary information, but usually at the expense of a modern, or sometimes even attractive, design, which can be a turn off for the discerning customer.
  • Full stack developers – The ones who can do both. These are the rare breed unless you are dealing with a larger marketing firm; even rarer still is the individual full stack developer, as this requires both the creative and analytical sides of your brain to work as a unit. xclntDesign falls into this category.

It is important to know which type you need before starting your next web project. All three types have their uses for specific projects and picking the wrong one can incur extra costs and other missteps that may sink your project before it gets off the ground.

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