Clearing Misconceptions on Usability vs. the Cool Design Factor

By February 25, 2012 Blog One Comment

Design or Usability

A mistake web designers often make concerning web design is choosing cool design over usability, all because opponents of site usability ruled that a complex web design was always better than a simple one. Needless to say, hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to waste on websites with flashy designs but poor user interfaces and navigation features.

There is however, a positive aspect to this downturn. Cool design has now taken the backseat, with both large and small companies now recognizing the importance of usability. Glitzy design has lost favour with companies, but that doesn’t mean usability opponents have quit fighting for what they think is right.

Still, much more work needs to be done as companies must now understand how to design a usable website without committing key errors—and there have been many as of late. For instance, companies often make use of focus groups, which receive pictures of prospective design samples with members made to choose which one they prefer. This is a huge mistake, since they’re only seeing designs at face value and not actually using them.

Instead, the focus for companies should lie in observing how well designs work when users are performing tasks with the UI, and not necessarily what users have to say about the design. Likewise, companies must not trust what users say they will do in the future based on a website design’s looks. For instance, if users say they are likely to patronize websites with Flash-based graphics, you should only take this at face value—it simply means that Flash is cool for now.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that preference on a website design should no longer be taken into account. In fact, Enform believes that it pays to listen to what users have to say, after they have extensively used a design. Users may not know it right away, but if they have an easy time using and navigating through the site, the more they will like the overall design in use.


One Comment

  • Dani says:

    I agree on many points. As a designer, I’ve often been frustrated by websites that are over-designed. Oftentimes these are heavily flash based sites with lots of moving things. Certainly beautiful to look at and fun to use but oftentimes very difficult/frustrating to find what you are actually looking for. I think design should lead one quickly and efficiently to one’s destination. In other words, the old adage “form follows function” still has merit today. Granted, most people are attracted to pretty things first over more utilitarian things, but I think there is room for a healthy balance of both. Embellishment can still have its place too. But one has to always keep in mind that the end user wants to get to their information fast, don’t make them have to think too hard for it.