In corner 1, we have –
Functionality: The Features
“The quality or state of being functional; especially the set of functions or capabilities associated with computer software or hardware or an electronic device”
And over in corner 2 –
Usability: The Interactions
“The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.“
– International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
The most effective websites are consistent and hard working. They process and share information with ease. When a user makes a request, the websites follow through. But, they are also user friendly. A consumer doesn’t become lost in a labyrinth of content. They don’t get stuck at the check out. The user experience (UX) is simple and enjoyable.
So, how do you design a website to do complex tasks while being simple enough for its intended user to access? Does functionality hold more value than usability? Or is it the other way around?
The What of Functionality
The How of Usability
“Do you cripple your design in the name of user-friendliness, or do you blast your users in the face with power and overwhelm them with your interface?” -Josh Pelton, Bad Design
How do we know which side of this debate to align with? First, we need to eliminate some common misconceptions.
There are plenty.
Multiple options appeal to a wider user base -False
Good UX is not about adding more features/options. It’s about improving interactions based on how a user needs/wants to engage with the system.
The user may not even know they want to interact in a different way until something better comes along. So instead of defaulting to the answer that more is more, try to look at the issue from a different angle. Too many options can cause “Decision Paralysis”. This means that the user suffers even more mental grief as they ponder too many choices for the same task. This may lead them to abandon the site altogether.
Adding more features increases efficiency -False
Good UX will provide users with a path of least resistance. Offering loads of features can cloud this approach. Follow the 80/20 rule. 20% of the functional features in any one environment will be responsible for 80% of the results. Never lose sight of what the ultimate goal is for every interaction. If a user can avoid calling a help desk, that is a UX win.
Simplicity reduces functionality -False
- Efficiency and simplicity should be the primary focus for the site’s foundation. Start with a User-Centered design. Features and functionality should be the rooms and floors that sit atop it.
- Time is money. Do not forget how long it takes to create new features and then train users to access them. Developing a new system with tons of bells and whistles is all well and good. But if it lacks a solid UX, it can take longer to add to the site. Then it becomes a change management nightmare. Implementing loads of features on a shaky foundation makes the training process harder.
- Never assume that all users are equal. If possible, give users the ability to customize the amount of features and options they want. You do not have to take away features to allow for this. But you do need to know who you’re building for. Let more advanced users find those special features. Don’t drown less experienced users with features they don’t need or understand.
All Things in Moderation
Atlantic BT knows a thing or two about finding balance with a web design. Contact our teams today to discuss your ideas and vision. Together, we can craft a website you can be proud of.