Function & Form: Ease of use for the common user

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Paul Atwood

 

In this modern age, we exist in a society that is reliant on functionality and form. People are drawn to things that look attractive, visuals that will be eye-catching and stimulating to experience. Even more than that, we are always attracted to the subject that is easiest to understand. This brings us to one of the most important things to consider when creating an interface - that is creating a harmonious balance between an aesthetically stimulating design and an interface that requires the least amount of effort understand. This is to leave the user with the maximum amount of concentration to intake and retain the information the design was set out to communicate.

 So where do we start?

 Well, every design challenge has a key problem, that being, transforming a cluster of ideas and information, and building it into a clear cohesive map that anyone and their grandmother could navigate. UI / UX designers have the personal convenience of having the technical wisdom within interface design to have a below-the-surface understanding of not only how a website or an app works, but also the thought process that was used by its developers/designers during its creation. Naturally, few people outside of the industry will have this same intuition, and this is exactly why we need to be extremely mindful of balancing function and form when taking on a project for a client.

 Context, context, context.

Before beginning a project, one of the first things you should consider is the context of your project. The context of where your design is applicable will affect the attention span of your user and how much time you can expect them to spend on your creation. This is a variable, as an average person is probably going to spend more time on say, a site with thought-provoking articles, as they would on a food delivery app. After considering the timeline of how long you have to convey information to your user, the next thing to handle is the amount of information that you need to deliver. Once you have an understanding of these two variables, you get to find your balance. The nature of UI /UX design is that both function and form need to be delivered, and the way you handle it to give your user the best possible experience is to master that balance.

 

Retain user interest.

If your project has a considerable amount of information, you want to keep your user’s attention long enough to retain everything you are trying to convey to them. A good place to start with that is to streamline. Everything that is unnecessary? Set it aside, work on the foundation of your interface. Create beautiful type, and maintain an interesting yet straightforward eye-flow. If the interface is easy on the eyes, the user’s attention is then entirely focused on the content. Keep it simple. This being said, it’s okay to experiment with ideas that might be a little bit more detailed, but if you start to stray into some more complex details, make sure to run human tests, see if it helps or hurts, and then decide off of that.

 Make use of minimal information.

On the other side of this process, let’s say your project gives you minimal information to convey. Say it’s a local event, and they are looking for a site that will be able to let the user sift through the information on the event, yet all they’ve given you is a little bit more than what is detailed on the event poster. If you keep that small amount of information in a stripped down format, with minimal detail and experimentation, the viewer of the site will probably spend as much time looking at the interface as they would simply looking at a poster, and that’s not exactly the most engaging. Maybe it’s time to be a little creative with this site? What can you add to keep your user there for longer? Transitions, animations, interesting scrollers? Start toying with ways you can make the site fun to navigate as they get bits of information at a time.

 

Of course, as anything within design, nothing is consistent. This is more of a prompt to be creative with your work, but also a reminder to keep your users in mind, and even after saying that, a creative mind strives on limitations. Pay close attention to the limitations and create phenomenal work within them. This is the beauty of balancing function and form for the sake of ease of use.


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