Some years back, I had to go through an induction program in one MNC. I was introduced to an award winning e-learning program that was supposed to introduce me to the company, product, services, policies and procedures and more.
The e-learning course interface design was extravagant. It was an expert graphic designer’s work. While the design was out of the world, the content was too drab and boring. To be frank , I got nothing out of the course. All that I did was just click Next to proceed further while I checked out the rich, bright e-learning interface.Though I gained no value out of the course, I did think the interface did lure me to explore the entire course.
There was a time when I used to give a thumps up to fancy designs and interfaces and a thumps down to anything that was plain and simple. To me at that point of time, form was just as important as function. I could never think of compromising on form.
Today my perception has changed. I completely believe form must follow function. However, the decision whether or not to compromise on form is completely context specific, depends on the end user requirements.
If you are trying to sell a product, say chocolates, it is not enough you produce high quality stuff. You also need to make sure that the wrapper is attractive enough to lure people to buy the chocolates.
If you want to train pilots, a flight simulator is very much needed and will alone serve the purpose. High definition and rich content is part of aviation training.
If you want to create e-learning for kids, you need to present content using rich images/animations, sound/music and make it as attractive as possible for the kids.No colors, no images, no sound, will not work well with kids even if the content is very useful.
In all the scenarios above, form is equally or sometimes more important than function.
On the other hand, if you are building a software application to solve a business/enterprise problem, the following questions are of utmost importance:
- Is the software easy to use?
- Is the software easy to learn?
- Does the software solve the business problem?
If all the above requirements are met, even if the software user interface is simple, it will work well with the customers/users.
So what do you think? Should form follow function or vice versa? Please share scenarios, if you can.