Design takes on an important part in affecting the human perception and the first impression. However, design can only partially improve the usability of a product.
Design can provide guidelines. With a solid color scheme or a proper usage of design elements, the user can be guided along processes and services. Therefore design supports the concept phase and allows highlighting or neglecting specific elements.
Design can turn a product into a WOW-product instead of keeping it simply as an efficient and neutrally simple product. Hence, design does not increase usability but rather has a range of other effects:
- Design increases the emotional value of a product.
- Design increases the actual value of a product.
- Design makes products consistent.
- Design appeals to the target audience.
- Design can be a purchase decision.
- Design can be emotionally binding.
- Design can be added value in comparison to the competition.
Concept and design need to be clearly distinguished at this point.
If a product that is not user-friendly. A new design will probably make it more appealing to the eye, but it will not make it more intuitive. Now, if a user-friendly product with an excellent interaction concept gets a new look and feel it will remain user-friendly.
An icon may be beautifully designed however, if it does not dispose of the visual language and convey the information a user can process, the best design could be for nothing.
What do the below icons tell you ?
It’s a classic icon design problem : Filter. Many people choose the funnel, even though its not at all representative of what “filter” often does. Others have opted to spell out “Filter” as a button instead.
A visual language can be learned and apparent to a majority of users or it can be very specific to the target group. The design itself provides little support for the actual message. True significance is achieved through the concept.
Know Your Audience
Even though a design may look amazing, it may not be the best solution to your particular project. We get all excited and want to showcase our amazing talents, but the truth is, there is no greater tool than good old-fashioned research. Users actually understanding on design is dependent upon their cultural heritage, their socio-economic background, their age, and many other factors.
In the world of urban design, we should visit places that fit our target demographic and always be striving to improve upon the last project. Observe how people move through a site. Is the call-to-action too hard for people to find? Is the hamburger menu too confusing for older users? Is there an ability to search?
Make Design Desirable
Desirability is conveyed in design through branding, image, identity, aesthetics and emotional design. The more desirable a product is – the more likely it is that the user who has it will brag about it and create desire in other users.
As example – Honda and BMW both make cars. They are to some extent both useful, usable, findable, accessible credible and valuable but BMW is much more desirable than Honda. This is not to say that Honda is undesirable, they have sold a lot of cars under that brand but given a choice of an used BMW or Honda for free – most people will opt for the BMW.
The corner stone of Emotional Design is the idea that if you can elicit strong emotions in your users – you can use those emotions to either create loyalty or to drive a customer to take action.
Charles Eames may have said it best, “If it is the function of design to solve the evolving problems of man, then the designer’s first concern must be the true need.”
As designers, our job is never done; there is always something we can learn from past projects, other projects, and even other disciplines. If we truly believe our job is to make lives easier or quality of life better, then we need to be observing the world around us and paying close attention to how people actually live, as opposed to a utopian ideal that, in the end, could have the exact opposite effect we hope for.
A designer attempt at he/she will always use design as a persuasion tool, instead of as a mere creative element.
It is not enough that we build products that function, that are understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun, and, yes, beauty to people’s lives
– Don Norman, The Design of Everyday Things