Design versus Functionality

Decompiling the makings of a great platform

Adaberemchi Aja-Onu

Many years ago, when I started out in the Tech industry, there was an argument about which aspect of a project was more critical. The design or the code that made it tick. This affected the payments that were given to individuals working in those departments. In companies that were founded by coders, designers were paid less than coders, and on the other hand, companies founded by designers did the opposite. This affected the way projects ran for years. You'd have projects that were well designed and looked shiny but had minimal functionality. Then you had projects that were highly functional but looked like crap. 

The truth is design is functionality and functionality is design. Design isn't just about the way things look and feel it's also about the way it works and how the user interacts with the interface to achieve his desired outcome. Bottling design as just the look of a product is quite narrowminded. The ability to determine the way interface causes a user to operate the platform is a massive aspect of UX, which influences user acceptance. This ensures that the platform designed is eventually adopted by end users. If a company determines it needs a website to cause visitors to take action, but all the interface does is to confuse the user, it wastes all the money spent on the development of the platform.

How many websites are out there right now that have been designed but have not achieved their real purpose. Businesses have invested millions in redesigning their platforms and their websites but are still having the same end-user reaction. Visitors come to their websites, look at the homepage and never take action. The truth is, the visitor needs to be guided by the interface. 

Design is the start, middle, and end-stage of developing a platform so that it achieves the outcome and vision of the project owner.

This brings our conversation into the area of costs. A well-designed project requires artists and coders working together to produce the desired outcome. It is not a one-man show. Over the years, single artists or web designers have pitched their services to companies stating that they are the affordable choice and that going with them would deliver the exact same outcome as engaging a team to run the project. Nothing could be further from the truth. For a design project to be successful, several skill sets have to be involved. A Designer should be required to ensure the look, and feel reflect the overall outcome desired when the user interacts with the interface. A coder should ensure that the design responds the way it was conceptualized at the ideation stage.

This is an elegant dance that large agencies have perfected over the years. This is why they charge so much for their services. In the long run, it is observed that projects that these agencies handled have gone on to be very successful in the wild because a team of highly skilled and experienced designers and programmers were involved throughout the project to ensure that it created the outcome for which it was built.

My advice to project owners is that they invest in their Dream. Don't cheapen out your Dream? Don't opt for paying the lowest fee for that project you hope will make you billions. It is a copout to believe that you can spend so little in pursuit of a dream that is so large. Even idealistic dreams cost something. It'll cost you time, energy, in many cases, it requires the visionary's health. 

So what do you think? Do you agree that functionality and design are one of the same or do you still hold to the idea that they are both separate aspects of the projects?