Debunking the design decision of making something look “beautiful” and why that isn’t enough to…
Focusing on high fidelity and pixel perfect designs is something that almost all designers take pride in. It’s subtle, maybe not visible to the human eye, but as a designer, I tend to zoom in on those minuscule details. If anything is out of place, I have the urge to fix it because it’ll haunt me for a hot minute (it really doesn’t matter in hindsight and I’m moreso contributing to the stereotype that all designers freak if a design is one pixel off). As time consuming as it is, especially when the designs are not finalized, I enjoy the feeling of knowing that my Sketch layers are organized and the layout across different views of the product are consistent.
There have been instances (like mentioned here and here) where I got so wrapped up in the details of a design that I failed to communicate the significance behind how a design worked and would help users. In the beginning stages of my project, it was challenging to articulate beyond the design itself and how it would help us tackle the bigger issues surrounding adoption, ease of use and ultimately illustrate tangible outputs would allow us to measure the success of our product. Doing this could help us get to the core of how users felt about it and how we could help them improve their experience by addressing those aspects in the design.
I was having a discussion with my manager and one of his observations is that the biggest hurdle of going into c-suite role in design is that design isn’t baked into business objectives (i.e adding design after a product is complete is less valuable than having design meet the business objective).
Successful designers connect design with business objectives.
There are two types of designers:
- Designers who focus on how good a design looks but fail to miss business objectives
- Designers who meet business objectives but lack “beautiful” design
There are existing examples where a product had great craftsmanship but missed business objectives where design wasn’t the end result (i.e Facebook paper, Rdio), and product that met business objectives but lacked design (i.e. Uber in the beginning, Amazon).
The difference is that if a design just focuses on craftsmanship, the chances of it succeeding are extremely slim versus a design that meets business objectives but lacks design. An example is an app called Splitwise. It helps me split bills between my friends by calculating the difference I need to pay and seamlessly helps me transfer the amount I need to pay via Vemno and Paypal. The app isn’t the most stellar looking app I used if I compared it to something like Facebook Paper, but it still succeeds because it works and gets the job done. As a result, it’s considered one of the best apps to split money in the market thus far because of easy transfers and with all the basic tools needed to add, organize, and split expenses for any situation.
In an ideal world, if we have both craftsmanship (is it simple, beautiful, clean?) AND business objectives (is it scalable? Sustainable? Makes money? Is there a need? Is there value? How can we reach to as many users as possible? solving a problem?), that’s great design.
At the end of the day, it didn’t matter if I was a pixel off my design. What really mattered was explaining my rationale behind what I did in a design, how it worked and why was it a good decision in the grand scheme of user objectives and business goals on top of a solidly communicated design.