Web Design: Understanding Purpose

Any kind of product design is a balance between form and function. Good designers get this balance correct ensuring that the product is both beautiful and also that it fulfils the problem it was made to solve. Take a chair for example: it must be both comfortable to sit in and aesthetic. I doubt anyone would you buy an ugly chair that had pins in it. Web design is no different to this and web designers seek to strike a balance between providing the functionality that their product is created for and creating a design that is considered attractive by it’s users. The best web designers will get this balance right time and time again.

Understanding how to make something beautiful is tricky in practice but it’s an easy idea. We all tried to colour inside the lines when we were younger to make the image better looking. So we’re familiar with the idea of making something visually appealing.

Designing something to be functional is harder. It’s often something that many people haven’t spent much time doing and this is what makes or breaks a good web design. The trick to this is understanding what the purpose of the web page is and a good place to start is taking a step back and asking yourself ‘what do people want to achieve my accessing this page?’.

Let’s take a very simple example. Your boss has asked you to create a contact page on the company website so that prospective clients can get in contact with your company to generate sales leads. So the purpose of this web page is to allow people to contact the company. We could do this a couple of ways:

  1. You could just list the various contact methods: a business email address, the business postal address and a business telephone number or;
  2. You could have a ‘contact form’ which lets visitors fill in the requested information: e.g. name, email address, message.

Both options would be sufficient and fulfil the purpose that the web page was intended for. One method is more complicated to implement than the other but both methods allow the visitors to contact the business and generate sales leads. Once you understand the purpose of the web page we can design the functionality around this and make decisions from here.