The Synergy of Forms and Functions


You’ve heard the phrase “Form follows function,” which are words attributed to architect Louis Sullivan more than a century ago. While it was said in reference to architectural form and function, it applies to countless other aspects of life.

You can also take the phrase quite literally, using it to refer to actual forms that your business uses. When you know what the form is supposed to accomplish, you can design it so that it does so in the most elegant and logical way possible. After all, if a form doesn’t accomplish its goal, then why have it?

Here are some form design principles that can help you create forms (and workflows) that do what they’re supposed to without wasted effort, and that will be pleasing for users as well.

Dispense with “Form Follows Precedent”

Maybe there’s a form that your business has used for years that you’d like to take from paper to your company network or the web. That makes sense on many levels, from a resource-saving perspective as well as a time-saving one. While the right form software will let you create an online form that looks exactly like the paper one (which can be good since people already know what to put where), you don’t necessarily have to follow a paper form as your precedent.

Again, it’s about thinking of what your form (or workflow) is supposed to accomplish, then creating it so that it does so in a straightforward and intuitively sensible way. Times, technology, and business practices change, so it makes sense that your forms and workflows do too.

Is Your Form or Workflow Solid and Useful?

In the original architectural meaning of the phrase “form follows function,” the designation specifically meant that buildings – primarily urban skyscrapers – should be designed based on their function. Specifically, these buildings should be both solid and useful. They should stand up to the stresses they will encounter, and they should perform as expected. The same can be said of just about anything humans create, from furniture and clothing to business forms and workflows. All should stand up to the stresses they will face, and all should function as expected.

Is It Beautifully Designed?

There is no requirement or regulation that says that forms and workflows must be beautifully designed, but isn’t work a better place when they are? A form, whether on paper or on a screen, that is easy to read, uses space wisely, and is aesthetically pleasing makes work a little better, just by doing what it is supposed to elegantly. Workflows, though you can’t really see them, are no different. When the steps of a workflow, including the steps involving forms, proceed logically and with minimal hassle, the workflow is enjoyable to use. Beauty, in this case, doesn’t necessarily refer to an aesthetic quality, but people know it when they encounter it.

Form and Function Should Work Synergistically

Form and function don’t flow in one direction but feed into one another when they’re designed synergistically. This principle is behind many modern technology designs, like the iPhone. People naturally gravitate toward products that not only work as expected, but that are also beautiful, comfortable to hold, and easy to use. How might the late Steve Jobs have designed your form or workflow? You can bet that extraneous steps would be eliminated and that every remaining step would serve a function. The right form and workflow software allows you the flexibility to design as you see fit and to modify designs for continual improvement.

PerfectApps is form and workflow software that understands the “form follows function” principle. It offers an intuitive user interface that lets you create electronic forms and workflows custom-tailored to your organization and user needs. We invite you to watch our demo video. You’ll see for yourself how PerfectApps marries form and function beautifully, and how businesses like yours benefit.