Form and Function in Web Design: A Humanistic Perspecive

By D. Wood.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper presents a critical review of the debate over form and function with a particular focus on the impact that Sullivan’s (1896) dictum “form ever follows function” has had in the area of Web design. It is the thesis of this paper that such a debate is founded on a misunderstanding of the meaning of the dictum, and that a resolution can be found in adopting the intended meaning that “form and function should be one”. Form is defined in this paper in terms of a Web site’s aesthetic properties, such as beauty and style, but further, as a manifestation of the site’s usefulness, usability and desirability. Such a position acknowledges the importance of function and the role that form plays in enhancing the user’s experience of the Web. Proceeding from this assumption, several strategies are outlined that suggest ways in which designers can create Web sites that incorporate elements of form and function to enhance the experience of the user, while also acknowledging the ethical responsibilities of the designer.

Keywords: Form, Function, Aesthetic, Usability, Accessibility, Web Design, Humanism

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.71-78. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 506.958KB).

Dr. D. Wood

Program Director (Media Arts), School of Communication, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Denise is responsible for the Bachelor of Media Arts program in the School of Communication, University of South Australia and she coordinates and is principal lecturer for several multimedia and Web design courses offered within the undergraduate and Honours programs at the University of South Australia. Denise is also Chair of the School of Communication Teaching and Learning Committee and Co-Chair of the Division's Equity Committee. Denise has extensive experience in the multimedia industry as both a producer and training provider and she has undertaken several research studies addressing the impact of technology in education. Denise's current research into strategies for embedding usability and accessible design practice within the undergraduate multimedia design curriculum is of particular relevance to her paper for this conference.

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