Have you ever felt that a product is beautiful but doesn’t do what it’s needed? Lousy design is the functionalist movement’s main enemy.
The goal of this 200-year movement is to create the concept of goal-fulfilling products. Create something that answers a need first. Looks come later.
One of the main statements of this group is that function (the intended use of the product) should drive the form (how it looks) of the product.
Think about the user, not that specific client.
To this day, these tensions still happen, especially when we make digital products. It has even shifted to not only function but also the content, situation, and setting.
One of these tensions occurs when we design to show it in a static and isolated way.
Design made to leave a client in awe or fill your portfolio is what I call the ”dribbble way.” Produce a beautiful screen that doesn’t do anything, but hey, it looks good.
This type of content is a mistake that we designers make to please clients’ expectations or skip the research phase.
These mistakes lead to designing for impossible situations.
Working in situations like these is the usual result when we don’t have the final content and function of a product.
Creating e-commerce with 100–200 items in mind is not the same as making it with 1,000 products.
Content can be static or change dynamically. Someone could write a 10-word text, a 100-word, or no words at all! (which is awful for SEO and accessibility, by the way).
Losing focus on user experience and prioritizing the user interface is the natural outcome of this. The reason why you sometimes feel like a screen or a text feels out of place.
Designing a screen without paying attention to others is one of the outcomes that these tensions create.
This is the bitter end of many apps and websites that don’t put user experience first and let their screens flow without a purpose.
There are solutions
How can we return to functionalism in digital product design? Let’s try to follow these simple steps before starting to design an interface:
- Define and understand the business goals with your client. These should always drive your decisions and priorities;
- Create a user persona that drives your actions alongside the clients’. The most successful digital products have a balance between stakeholder/user.
- Structure your content, trying to specify the quantity and appearance of images or texts you will have in a real scenario;
- Always talk with your devs; they are the ones who can tell you what’s technically possible to develop.
Having a user-focused approach to products, with proper research and continuous feedback is UX’s — the functionalist movement’s spiritual successor — statements.
It’s up to us to bring back good design, so let’s go for it.