10 Experts Show How NOT to Kill Your Website With Design

Your product should have a user-centered design. Period.

If users don’t find usability in your website design there are great chances that sooner or later they will dump your product.

As Steve Jobs said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

In the vast ocean of successful tech products with the appealing and catchy design elements, there are a few which are defying the odds and have a very plain look and feel. Websites such as Reddit, Craiglist, Hacker News, The Drudge Report, etc. have basic layouts, yet they are acting magnets to a huge amount of traffic.

We asked some of the tech founders, designers, and UI/UX design experts – How important are the design elements for the success of a tech product and to what extent design should be given weightage while developing a tech product?

Here’s what they have to say:

#1 Design is NOT about using fancy design elements

human-centered design

Don Norman Prof. and Director, Design Lab, UC San Diego, Author of Design of Everyday Things

Design is NOT about using fancy design elements. Design is NOT about making something look pretty. Design is about solving the right problem, about delivering something that fulfills the requirements and needs. Should it be attractive? Sure, but not at the expense of weakening the understandability and usability.

#2 Your design can’t get in the way of your product working

ease-of-use during the design process

Eamonn Carey, Managing Director of Techstars Connection, in partnership with AB InBev

Thinking about user experience and user interface design is massively important when it comes to building tech products. People have incredibly short attention spans and there’s such a huge amount of competition for their attention online and on mobile – so it’s hugely important to grab people within the first few seconds of them engaging with your product.

That can be as simple as having an app that loads quickly or an online site that’s beautifully designed. Most importantly, your design can’t get in the way of your product working. If you look at ostensibly ugly sites like Reddit, Craigslist, LinkedIn and others, they might not look amazing, but they do exactly what the user wants in a reasonably simple and straight forward way. So for me – design is not all about appearance, but instead, it’s about designing for the best possible experience a user can have.

#3 Design is about meeting the needs of the user

Principles for Usable Design

Mustafa Al-Qinnneh, Head of Design, Watsi

I would say design plays an important role in the success of a digital product. Those examples you mentioned – Reddit, Craigslist, Hacker News – just because they don’t use multi-column layouts, custom typefaces, or lots of white space doesn’t mean they aren’t designed.

They’re successful because they simply work. They’re fast to load. They surface the right content quickly. They’re accessible. People depend on them to get what they need – whether it’s the latest industry news or finding a place to live – design is meeting all of these needs.

#4 Welcoming and interesting design can get more attention

user interface design

Alex Tass, freelance logo and graphic designer, Co-owner of Utopia Branding Agency

I am a graphic designer, of course for me the design and design elements are important and relevant, but what made Reddit, Craiglist, Hacker News, The Drudge Report, etc. grow in the first place is the shared content and the people interest for it. Of course, the better the design, the easier you reach the desired information.

So, although the content and information raised the mentioned projects I also think that the design elements play a key role in the success of a tech product. The more welcoming and interesting it will be, the more attention it will get. Well-designed elements will make an easier choice for the visitors and clients to like the project, to remember it and to return for more content or interaction with it.

#5 Design is aesthetics with a plan and an intent

Usability in Software Design

Penina S. Finger  Art Director at Breiter Creative

The question asks how important design elements are to the success of a project and then gives examples of sites that are lightweight (quick loading, low demands on servers and browsers), and that use minimal styling.

These are design choices.

Designers are often accused of presenting work that “has no design to it” because, for example, they are type only (no illustrations) or have a high proportion of white space.

Design is aesthetics with a plan and an intent. These elements are critical to the success of any project. Whether the aesthetics are lightweight and minimal or heavily styled and trend conscious. It depends on the audience, the intent of the project and the vision of both the stakeholders and the designers.

#6 Key design principles- clarity, context, relevance and approachability

customer-centric design

Scott Andress, Director of Product Design at 23andMe

There are a few things we do in order to create a streamlined experience for our customers. First, quick and clear navigation is foundational. People need to know what information they have available and be able to make a decision for where to go next with minimal effort. Next, we employ predictable patterns and thoughtfully disclose information. This helps customers build their understanding of the concepts and information we’re presenting to them. And by providing detailed, scientifically accurate information to our customers, ultimately our experience serves as an approachable guide to how their genes make them truly unique.

We anchor our customers’ experiences on key design principles including clarity, context, relevance and approachability. While many of the product experiences we design are interesting and fun, like Ancestry and Traits reports, some of our experiences deal with sensitive and nuanced information. We strive to create design patterns and systems that meet the diverse requirements for our entire service experience.

#7 Allow users to get what they need quickly

user-oriented design

Judy Philip, UX Manager at Elementum SCM

In my opinion getting the user and interaction flow is critical to the success of a product. If users can complete their tasks successfully then users will come back. When you have other competition in the same area you may need to bump up the additional design elements to not only allow a user to complete their tasks but also make it a delightful experience where they prefer to come back to your site.

Simple guidelines to follow:

– Organize your content into groupings that make sense

– Simple Navigation so users are not overwhelmed

– Allow users to get what they need quickly (ex. search)

– Readability – make sure the font is readable

#8 Design won’t make the product sell by itself

build usability in design

Karol Ortyl, Freelance App & Web Designer

I strongly believe in the power of design, yet I’m 100% sure it won’t make the product selling by itself. If the idea behind an app is good and the product solves a problem or offers something new, then great design may only help, but decent one will do the job, as well. When an idea is poor, even a perfect design won’t make it attractive in user’s eye. To make it at least decent, the priority is to provide high-level of usability — interface may not to be a work of art, but it always had to be comfortable. Period.

On the other hand, brand design is field where design can really change the game. This is the area where the product has a chance to stand out from the crowd, because personality added to the app’s raw features makes it unique and different from other products on the market. And it’s not just a matter of logo or colour scheme. It’s what it stands for, what language it uses, which emotions it evokes. From two apps that offer comparable features and quality the one that user feels better with wins. After all, it’s always all about the character.

#9 Design plays a great role when there is a competition

usability engineering

Saya Benham, Web and Graphic Designer

The topic you brought up is very important. You are right, there are sites that don’t even have strong design elements, yet they are doing fine. In my view, it is all about establishing the brand.

When a business or product is introducing a very unique and useful service and when the product is very new and pioneer in the industry, the usage and innovation of the service or product is good enough for establishing the brand. There is no competition! However, when you offer a service or product that is not new and you have already many other people in the field, design can pay a great role.

It says about “Why you have to choose me”. This question is not even asked when a service is offered as a completely new one. Design plays a great role when there is a competition.

#10 Designs that restrain users to interact properly are not useful

design that matters

Tom Arnoy, CEO Zedge

In my opinion, the sole purpose of design is to enable the user to do what he or she wants to do. A good design triggers a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when interacting with the service.
On the other hand, designs that restrain the users to interacting properly or somehow don’t enable them to take full advantage of the service, is not very useful, regardless of aesthetics.
Here’s an infographic you can use for reference:
website design infographic