Posts Tagged ‘function’

Aesthetics, Part 2

Friday, September 10th, 2010

In my last post I briefly addressed the importance of form and function and how they are really two parts of a unified whole. That whole has far more potential impact than either of the individual ingredients taken alone. You can have a very beautiful design, but, if the design doesn’t fulfill the necessary function, it has little impact. Likewise, if a design functions but has little aesthetic appeal, it’s effectiveness will be severely limited.

However, when given equal consideration, form and function have the ability to fulfill the functional objectives of a business and connect with customers on an emotional level. I ended with a couple basic questions. In this post we’ll address those dealing with our customers.

Why do businesses so frequently dismiss the role of aesthetics in their marketing efforts?

The simple answer to this question is money. Quality design requires time and experience, and that costs money. Make no mistake about it, anyone CAN build a website, but that is why most of them suck. It is impossible for people who do not have the benefit of experience or perspective to design and develop something that will be as effective or successful as the work of someone with experience. At the most, any success will be a matter of luck. What successful business owner leaves important considerations to chance?

More importantly, why do businesses accept this low level of quality; even demand it?

This is due to a combination of factors.

First, business owners and decision makers don’t know the difference between high and low quality design or the relative value of either. I have watched business owners stress for weeks over what copier they are going to lease, and I have watched the same business owners put their website in the hands of their nephew because he will do it for $200. Money may be tight, but that is not the only concern. The real issue is that they do not believe that a high quality product has any more value than a low quality product. One might be a little fancier or prettier than the other, but it’s not worth the difference in price.

That segues into the second factor: designers are not generally business people. Most of us have artistic backgrounds. Even worse, we have nerdy, artistic backgrounds. So, we can fluently discuss color theory, technology, usability, etc., but we cannot speak to how all of that translates into real value for our clients. Unless the client also has an artistic background (or a nerdy background), all they have to compare is price. Clients aren’t stupid, but they may be ignorant. It is the designer’s responsibility to help educate the customer and to help them make the informed decision. In the long run, both parties will be more successful because of it.

Aesthetics, Part 1

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

I was reading an article titled “In Defense of Eye Candy” on A List Apart that argues the importance of understanding the impact of aesthetics on a project’s success, and I wanted to piggy back on that article to make a few additional points. In this article, the author argues that aesthetics and usability concerns be given equal weight when designing a web site because form and function should be one. As a designer, I agree with this concept. As a human, I completely agree with this.

This idea holds true almost universally in the natural, experiential, world. Consider a tree and a rebreather. They both scrub carbon dioxide and provide oxygen rich environments. However, a tree affects far more people than a rebreather. A tree also provides shade, prevents erosion, aids in the moisture cycle, provides shelter for animals, etc. A tree is also aesthetically appealing. It is full of color and life. It’s branches and leaves sway and rustle in the wind. In other words, a tree provides holistic benefits, and a tree is something with which people can make an emotional connection.

I’m not saying rebreathers don’t have a purpose. Trees don’t really work that well underwater or in outer space. However, most people don’t live underwater or in space. So, maybe a rebreather is to a tree as a mobile website is to a full website. The rebreather accomplishes the basic function in a unique environment.

So, they have similar base functionality, but the form of the tree is the aspect that enables an emotional connection. I don’t know of any poetry or artwork focusing on rebreathers. In marketing, isn’t making that emotional connection with customers and clients one of the ultimate goals? If you can make an emotional connection, you are far more likely to enjoy a long relationship with them.

Why then do businesses so frequently dismiss the role of aesthetics in their marketing efforts? Why are so many marketers, web designers and web developers content to provide business with recycled, second-rate materials. More importantly, why do businesses accept this low level of quality; even demand it?

The answers to these questions and more will be addressed over the next few posts. So, stay tuned.