The Importance of Functional Design

Any good web designer knows that every decision they make is a balance (or occasionally a struggle) between aesthetic and functional requirements. Each small decision – like the choice to make a clickable link slightly larger, thereby decreasing the difficulty in clicking it – gets tallied up into a sum total of the user experience.

So it’s essential to have a good grasp of how all these details interact with each other and the user, and how to harness them to create a site that lives at the intersection of visual and functional appeal. One area where this is incredibly essential is in ecommerce design.

Let the Design Guide the User, and the User Guide the Design

As a rule, website designs should be as clean and simple as possible; this helps to minimize confusion and information overload for your viewers. But that doesn’t mean the site can’t be lively and interesting, it just gives your viewers a better chance to identify predominant information.

Fruit of the Loom provides a great example of how white space and simplicity are a perfect platform for featuring important links and content. Although it’s simple, the navigation is intuitive and allows the user to find the exact information needed. Utilizing the Amazon Ecommerce platform, the site does an excellent job of taming its design elements so that the product images draw the viewer in. In the case of ecommerce design, consumer conversion is the end goal and Fruit of the Loom shines in its ability to showcase its products.

amazon ecommerce

In another sense, the user also directs the design, catering to your audience’s needs and interests is nearly as important a consideration as an understandable interface. For example, Peter Nappi’s design is clearly directed towards young, stylish people who appreciate a sense of craftsmanship. The modern type, warm color scheme, and saturated, sharp photography all contribute to this impression. This becomes even more apparent when viewing the product pages. The photos are far from typical and locate the product in a timeless, weathered genre instead of the usual bleak white background of most storefronts.

Peter Nappi

Remove Irritations and Barriers

A few small usability blunders can add up to an exasperating experience that your users might not want to repeat. Be sure to eliminate common problems such as:

  • Clickable areas that are too small
  • A search bar that’s hard to find
  • Categorization that doesn’t make sense
  • Contact information that is difficult to find or unsatisfying to use (such as a very restrictive contact form, rather than an email address)
  • Dense blocks of content that can’t be easily scanned
  • Articles or products that must be viewed across multiple pages

For example, when you enter this web store’s sale section, it starts out by displaying only 15 items per page. You can load up to 90 items at once, but it’s an annoyance to have to reset the page. And there is no option to simply view everything at once.

Made Well

Although sometimes it seems like usability concerns can get in the way of design priorities, (or vice versa) in a good website, the two work hand in hand. It’s the interplay between these two objectives that make for a really satisfying user experience, and lead to greater success for your site.

Luke Clum

Luke Clum is a graphic designer and web developer from Seattle. He loves UI design, alpine climbing and the soothing splash of earl grey. You can follow him on Twitter @lukeclum.

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  1. Abdullah on January 10, 2013

    great collection Luke Clum

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