Form vs. Function in Website Design & Development

Multitasking has long been an enviable skill, and has developed into a defining characteristic of our generation. However, recent research reveals that multitasking has altered the way that we approach tasks.

Stanford researchers performed a series of experiments to study self-proclaimed multitaskers. The experiment consisted of the multitaskers performing a single task with multiple components. The researchers found that the multitaskers focused too much on irrelevant information, and had a lot of trouble filtering this irrelevant information out. They also found that those who described themselves as “high multitaskers” were more easily distracted during the experiment than those who admitted to being “low multitaskers” (More details here).

This Stanford research can be applied to a number of areas, but let’s look a it as it pertains to web development. Often times, web developers focus too much on extraneous details that go into the design of a website (for example, border size, color schemes, etc.) without focusing on the big picture. We’ve heard the term “form vs. function” before, and these are two important facets of web development. Focusing too much on “form” puts functionality in the backseat, lengthens the development period, and can yield the same results as the Stanford experiments. As users of a website, our generation of “high multitaskers” will be placed in the shoes of those who took part in the experiment, and will be distracted by aesthetic yet unimportant ornaments on the website.

The Stanford research begs for a change in experimental conditions to better suit the multitaskers. As web developers (the “task creators”), we have the power to do this: by putting “function” in the front seat, we at ATS appeal to the typical website user. We use “form” only to enhance the functionality and to give careful hints to guide the users toward their desired information. In a society comprised mostly of multitaskers, prioritizing website functionality over form is of utmost importance. By doing so, websites would better serve their primary purpose of fulfilling user needs.

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