When Amazing Design is Not Enough

This article is being shared and re-posted a lot today across a variety of social networks. TechCrunch published an article titled “User Experience and the Poison on the Tip of the Arrow“. In the post, Uzi Schmilovici argues that “amazing design is not enough.”

“Real design is about solving problems,” he says, and ultimately a designer has to focus on creating interfaces that are:

  1. Useful
  2. Engaging

Aesthetics will only get you so far, and as the author describes, won’t get you as far as it used to.

Instagram's UI is simple

He points to the success of photo-sharing mobile app, Instagram, stating, ” Instagram made taking and sharing photos so easy and delightful and that was enough.”

Last week, Instagram was purchased by Facebook for about $1 billion in cash and stock. Many analysts are pointing to the app’s simple, easy to use interface as a contributor to its success in making it attractive to the similarly utilitarian-designed Facebook. Read: User Interface Designers Invade Silicon Valley After Success of Apps Like Instagram

In reality, mobile app design – or design of any user interface – will likely draw more users and interactivity the less you even make users do on the app itself. We’re talking about automation.

For example, Schmilovici gives an example of a financial management app called Wesabe that aimed to be easy to use in importing your personal financial data and managing your budget and investments. Along came Mint, which automatically imported all of this data for the user, and Mint essentially killed the competition because it was so easy to use.

And in some cases, the design – or aesthetic appeal – of a user interface, may have no impact at all on the success of an app or service. Take DropBox, for instance. “They put a folder on your computer. Done,” says Schmilovici. DropBox didn’t even have a designer on staff in its earliest days, and it used a set of standard web icons for functional buttons that were hideous. Yet, their user base grew rapidly and usage increased. DropBox focused on the one function that mattered most to its users – sharing files online. They didn’t throw on extra features and options. They kept it simple, and in the end, users didn’t care enough about the styling of the interface to keep them from using it – and liking it.

Schmilovici closes his article with a phrase I hear frequently from the designers and leaders who work with clients in our Experience Design practice:

“Creating compelling killer user experiences.” 

It’s our team’s focus. Is it yours? I think any designer or team of product managers looking to build something that truly resonates with its users is going to be most successful when they focus on the end result and how it impacts the bottom line or growth objectives.

Ask yourself, what do I want users to do, and how easy can I make it for them to complete – or can I even do it for them?

 

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