Crowded around the TCRM coffee table we ventured whole heartedly into the realm of the old function verses form debate. While what actually started off the discussion is not fit for public consumption, and my view of one of my favourite chocolate egg sweets has been corrupted forever, it did raise the important issue of getting the balance correct between the look and the function of a website.
Unfortunately for us geeks, not everyone is impressed with the purely functional aspects of a website. The new version of the TCRM e-commerce system I have been working on this week now includes some advanced carriage options which delivers a much more flexible system for the seller. Different delivery zones can be defined by the site administrator and a surcharge type can be selected for each product. Still with me? The shopping cart then calculates the carriage for each product based on the standard item cost per item in that delivery zone and adds to that the surcharge for that delivery zone. This complex flexibility results in the grand output of a couple of numbers, a decimal point and a pound sign. You can’t draw people into your site based on how your calculate your carriage.
Yet how many sites can you think of that look stylish but don’t do much at all. The big flash demo you skip over after ten seconds, the brochure web sites with about fifteen words telling you about the company, and remember the blinking text effect from the 1990’s. All bling and no brain websites will hold people’s attention for about 2 seconds if you’re lucky. We look at many of competitors offerings including many Cardiff Web Design companies and notice form over function everywhere, it’s like owning a Rolls Royce with a Trabant engine, not a good thing .
What is needed to a balance between form and function. A site which is functionally rich and looks good doing it. The fact that all TCRM websites now come with a dynamically generated hierarchical site map is lost on most people. (It’s really hard to achieve with some fiddly XML parsing and database cross checking so only the user visible pages are listed) However it’s the funky green font, nice indentation and bullet points which will do it for most people and it’s that which makes it a good page for them. You can view it here if you like and see whether it’s the form or the function which do it for you. Think I’ll still pass on the proposed cream egg though.