My lovely wife and I own about half of the vintage (old) cedar-sided house where we live in Lilburn. Like an idiot, I painted it a nice chocolate color, so it virtually screams, “Chew on me!” to every nesting varmint in my neighborhood. Decisions have consequences and, yes, I digress.
In the master bath we have a shower stall with sliding doors. It’s a simple affair with chrome trim (aluminum, I’m being generous), a towel bar that doubles as a handle, and semi-frosted glass. Not the fancy frosting they have today but the old warped glass they used circa 1980. You know — the kind that looks like the glass maker messed up? No clear section at the top. No laser-etched roses. Just your basic two sheets of glass that move back and forth, hanging from little plastic rollers at the top.
The doors work pretty well now, but they’ve had issues. Did I drop the vintage hint already? A couple of years ago they were sticking rather badly when you tried to roll them and the results were not stellar. Sometimes, I would come into take a shower and find that the doors were completely jammed — as in pulled off the track and immovable. This was the result of my charming bride (remember her?) getting frustrated with the sticky doors and jerking them upward. Now a semi-violent upward motion, as you might guess, is not the “as designed” movement for a sliding glass door. This pulls the rollers out of their tidy little groove at the top and causes them to, well, not be rolling any more. Instead they are jamming. This is good for guitar friends but bad for shower doors. After a short sigh, I would reset the door by hoisting it up and gently guiding the rollers back into their familiar groove. Somewhere around iteration ten of this cycle, I decided to look more deeply into the matter.
Turns out the rollers, and not the dirty track at the top that I had wiped out several times, were the issue. Obtaining new ones from my trusty Amazon account (any fans in the crowd?), I installed them in about twenty minutes and rehung the doors. Problem solved.
If you toured my home as a potential buyer, and overlooked the clarion call to birds and squirrels, you would eventually look in the master bath. Correctly, you would deduce that the shower stall is quite out of style. The chrome trim is old and starting to corrode around the edges. The glass is boring and there are no special touches to remember fondly to your spouse upon your return home. If you closed your eyes, however, and slid the doors back and forth, you would think these are brand new doors, so smooth is their operation. They are highly functional, but not stylish.
Which brings me, at last, to my point. If you are half as persistent as the birds dwelling in my siding, you are still with me and the payoff is at hand.
Suppose I replaced my shower door frame with something in a nice bronze color, and updated the glass to be clear at the top with a pretty laser-etched drawing in the middle. The shower would look very different. That is, it would have a more modern style. But it would work exactly as it did before. That is, the functionality would be identical — sliding doors hung from plastic rollers. If I changed the doors out to use hinges instead of rollers, the door would then work differently, even if I kept the same style.
Now for the application. You knew there would be one, right? This isn’t a fine art site, after all. The next time you’re in a conversation about software, whether it is a website or an accounting package, and someone confuses you with talk about changes or new features, ask them this question: “Are you talking about the chrome or the rollers?” When they cock their head at you like the RCA dog, clarify with this: “Are we talking style or functionality?” Are we changing the way it looks or the way it works?
- Look = Style
- Work = Functionality
Programmers and User Experience experts make things work the way they should. They make software useful and efficient. Graphic Designers and style experts make it look beautiful and be consistent with your brand. Occasionally you will find people who do both.
Hopefully this little trip through my antique animal sanctuary will help you use the right words in your next debate about style vs functionality. I wish you smooth rolling.
Photo credit: Atelier Teee via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND