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August 4, 2010

Finding Balance Between Design and Functionality

Whether you’re brand new to fathead or you’ve been with us for a while (as many of our clients have), you’ll hear us say the same thing, over and over: “good design is the foundation on which functionality is built.” That’s not just some tired saying that designers throw around… to us, that’s the core of our studio belief, and it’s a design principle to which we fully adhere.

If you want to read more about why we think this way, you can read about that here. But this blog isn’t about self-promotion (well, not too much at least), it’s about applying solid advertising and design principles in day-to-day practice, and how these principles can apply to you. And one solid principle that tends to get lost in the shuffle in our opinion is the balance between design and functionality.

A perfect example of this principle in action is to look at two of the most popular social networking sites around, Facebook and MySpace. On the surface, these sites both offer the same basic functionality: allowing individuals and/or groups to interact with each other in a controlled environment. Design-wise, they are night and day.

MySpace allows their users complete control over what their pages can look like – adding music, backgrounds, photos and all sorts of endless add-ons. Throw into that mix a barrage of advertisements along the top and sides, and you’ve got something that usually ends up looking like a teenager’s bedroom, but without mom to come in and clean up every once in a while. Facebook however, allows controlled customization – users can personalize their spaces with a number of different widgets and add-ons, all of which must adhere to Facebook’s design standards. There’s also plenty of advertising on Facebook, but it’s not as “in your face” as MySpace, and again the advertising must adhere to the design standards set by Facebook.

Where am I going with this? Simply put: MySpace places design over functionality, letting their users totally control the look and feel of their own individual spaces. Facebook balances design and functionality equally, allowing users to customize their spaces while maintaining brand consistency. Each site is well suited for the markets they serve. The lesson learned by looking at these sites is about finding that balance between design and functionality, and where it fits in with your brand.

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