My take on design is not cynical. I think it both vital and unbelievably important for the success of a product that it has aesthetic appeal and ease of use. To avoid the cliché I will not start this article by quoting Jobs and give you the obvious example of Apple products as the epitome of design. Good design existed before the iPhone and hopefully will continue to do so much after smartphones go out of fashion.
This article is though on design principles, I don’t believe in them. Period.
I don’t think you can follow a set of rules that is pre-decided and use them to create striking, appealing design for your product(s). Actually if you buy a book on UI design or any other kind of design…before the author sets out his/her rules of design they will hint to the reader. “Whilst there is no hard and fast set of rules for good design…”. You might as well throw the book out the window at this point, the author just told us that his/her book is actually a con and you just got conned.
You can add it to the list of cons with Listerine and the 4-5 blade Mach Turbo shaving blades. One was initially a floor cleaner which has been rebranded without changing the formula and the other one is just childish…I have more blades in my razor than you…(Not to be a hypocrite, I threw away my razor after writing this article and have since stopped shaving).
I cede that there are general rules on how to think about design. Make sure font is readable, try and make different colors play together. But really, a lot of that is an after thought. I give you a badly designed website and you can point these things out to me.
I give you a good design; you will immediately get enamored by it and ‘struggle to find words to describe it’ (hence the phrase).
That is the crux of it all, you do not really know what you like about well-designed products, but you definitely know what you do not like about bad designs.
So how does one design good products then? I will take you back to the people who brought to us the phrase, “back to the drawing board”. Automobile manufacturers. When one looks at a Porsche 911 or a Jaguar today, it takes our breath away. The design figuratively slaps you in the face and like a veritable Gandhian you offer the other cheek immediately!
How did the designers create something so universally appealing? Simple. Trial and error…Years of struggle against consistent dejection. For every car that makes it to the assembly line, dozens of designs see nothing but the basement cupboard.
When we started putting together a design for our site, we figured out the functionality first. Then added some basic design, whatever we thought looked good, and showed it our friends.
First Trial group: People who are honest with you. Usually friends.
We got criticism that nearly reduced us to tears. We are yet to talk some of them again on account of their brutal honesty.
But jokes aside, version 2 was a huge improvement thanks to these guys.
Then we went to friends and people we knew who had a good sense of design.
Second Trial group: People whose insights are deeper than first trial group.
A sense of design is like a high IQ. Age, sex, education have no bearing on it. Your network and the network of your friends should definitely have some of these people.
The feedback was brilliant. Things really started to take shape. We even started fancying ourselves as design gurus and doled out some advise to other startups on their design, God help those souls.
Currently we are asking our Third Trial group, potential end users. The common man…our valued customers. (We will keep you updated on how that goes.)
Here is the thing though, we could have stuck to some design principles and told everyone to get lost. Let the world know, we knew what was best for them…quoted Jobs when someone said, “less is less and not more”. But that would basically lead us to creating a product that only we would like to use and no one else, and that is NOT cool (badass maybe, but not cool).