Purpose in Functionality

by Matt Ward
on November 1, 2010

in design Resources

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As a web designer/developer, I’ve found that there exist several common (if not nearly universal) truths when it comes to clients. One of these is that they love to talk about functionality. I have had several clients whose initial approach when they contact me is to provide me with a complete list of functionality – in other words, a listing of what they think that their website needs to do.

What I tend not to get quite so often is a description of what the purpose of the site is.

To my way of thinking, that is a problem. Recently, I wrote an article entitled “HTML (and CSS) do not a Website Make,” in which I discussed some of the things that I thought constituted a website. Obviously, part of the argument that I make is that a website is more than just its HTML and CSS, and one of the areas that I touch on is the notion of purpose. I think that some of what I wrote there has an important bearing on what I want to discuss in this article, so instead of rewriting it, I will simply quote my original words:

Every website should have a purpose. It may be to inform potential customers about your business (probably one of the most common types of websites). It may be to function as an informational resource. It may be to connect people with other people. It may be to showcase yourself, or even simply to entertain. Whatever the purpose is, it is ultimately the core of the site, the nucleus around which everything else that we have looked at so far is ultimately wrapped.

The purpose of a website is, in a very real sense, also its heart. It is the very reason for its existence. Every other element should be built, created and designed to support that purpose in some way. This of course, includes the basic (or advanced) functionality. In fact, I would even go far as to suggest that this relationship of support between functionality and purpose is actually more important than the actual design–which is not to say that the design is not important (because it most certainly is).

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