If you’re like me and you like home organizing shows you will have watched ‘Get Organized with The Home Edit' on Netflix. They organize closets and have “a system” which they love to talk about. One aspect of that system is color coding - grouping items by color.

Sounds simple, right? Here’s why this system doesn’t translate to everything, though. In design, there’s the idea that form follows function. This fundamental concept is what ensures that the what of your product governs the how of your product. The function should always govern the form.

I thought I'd run a little experiment and give The Home Edit color coding system a go with my phone apps. For about a week now I’ve been using my phone with all of my apps sorted by color. The result? I’m going absolutely insane.

I have very few apps on the home screen of my phone. The ones I do keep there are normally categorized into four folders based on their function:

  • Messaging apps
  • Photography apps
  • Web-related apps
  • And of course, the “random” folder that holds misc.

That’s MY system, one where the function governs so beautifully over form. Within this system, I know where everything is because of how everything is grouped. My cognitive load, the amount of brain power it takes to do an action, is at a minimum because I only need to remember what each folder is about when looking for an app that I use on a regular basis, or glance at an icon to get a sense of what function that folder is about.

With the color coding system, my cognitive load is a bit overwhelmed to say the least. Now I have to memorize which color icon a specific app uses and then I have to go look in the corresponding apps ‘color’ folder for that icon. And what do I find when I click there? A sea of similarly colored icons making it impossible to distinguish one from the other at a quick glance! It’s like looking at a double rainbow through a pair of Elton John glasses.

I didn’t add any icons to the carefully cultivated few I have in my home screen, so I know WhatsApp is green, Slack is white, Firefox is black. Still though, there is a moment when those folders open where I have to pause and read through each to figure out which one is the one I want. And if I’m in a hurry, I may open the Photos app rather than Slack (true story).

So anyways, form over function? Maybe when organizing sweaters. Definitely not for phone app organization. My dock does look very pretty, though!

How do you organize your apps?

To read more about how Vicky thinks about design, check out her interview!

Or, check out three of our team perspectives on the importance of design systems!