Target’s Design Lab has a great quote on the Wall: If the user can’t use it, it doesn’t work.
Thanks to John Dooey for this tagline: THE JUDGE OF GOOD DESIGN IS NOT DESIGNERS, IT IS USERS.
It’s part of a larger comment from an article on why iOS 7’s design isn’t good. The entire comment (it’s responding to another comment that says – ” It seems today everybody is an expert on interface design”) –
No, everybody is not an expert in interface design. We rely on Apple for that. We pay Apple for that. What we are, is experts in iPhone and iPad use. 500 million of us, 5–10 hours per day, for up to 6 years now has made us experts on iPhone and iPad use. So the users are not qualified to make iOS 7, but we are eminently qualified to judge whether or not it is more usable than iOS 1–6.
The user is the top of the hierarchy with Apple, not designers, not engineers. With iOS 7, Apple has at least temporarily forgotten that. They put Jony Ive in place of Steve Jobs, but Ive is a designer first and Jobs was a user first.
So your dismissal of users and lionization of the product manufacturer is inappropriate in this case. If you want to eat whatever is served to you, that is available from all of Apple’s competitors already. Try a heaping helping of Windows 8. Apple customers have always demanded functionality. We were given Windows systems at work but lobbied for Macs because of functionality, not because they are prettier on the outside. We paid $600 for iPhones because of what we can do with them, not how they looked. Apple has had to earn every sale 1 at a time by enabling the user to do more than they could with competing products.
THE JUDGE OF GOOD DESIGN IS NOT DESIGNERS, IT IS USERS.
Here’s the thing – John Dooey couldn’t be more right.
Good Design is what allows Users to easily, intuitively use a product and derive pleasure and benefit from the product quickly and conveniently
If users don’t like it. If it doesn’t ‘just work’. If it complicates things.
Then it isn’t good design.
It’s not about how pretty it looks to a designer. It’s not about how intuitive it seems to a developer. It’s not about how ‘sellable’ it looks to a saleswoman. It’s not about how ‘impressive’ it seems to the CEO.
It’s ALL ABOUT THE USER.
If the user likes it, it is Good Design.
If the user loves it, it is GREAT Design.
It’s that simple.
We’ve talked about this before – The Importance of Making Designs that Users Love. Designs that ‘Just Work’ for Users.
You need someone who fights for the user.
People who are True Experts understand that Users are the Judges of Good Design
Here’s the distinction –
- An ‘Expert’ is one who doesn’t fully grasp that the product is FOR THE USER. That it’s only ‘the use of the product’ by the user that gives the product any meaning. Without the user, the product is meaningless.
- A ‘True Expert’ is someone who has UNDERSTOOD and FULLY INTERNALIZED this tautology. That a product exists BECAUSE the user uses it.
An expert will think – I must demonstrate my expertise and make this design something that will impress my fellow experts.
A True Expert is immune to the validation that other experts could offer. Because it doesn’t matter. It’s damaging to the product when external validation from contemporaries is pursued. A True Expert only values what is valuable to the user.
Let’s consider an example –
- An Expert says – It’s so tacky that this smart phone calendar looks just like a real wall calendar. That’s just not cool and hip. All my fellow designers will laugh at me. I won’t be able to show my face at the Organic Cappuccino store any more.
- A True Expert says – There are 5.7 million people (or perhaps 57 million people) who have never used a computer before, who will buy this device. There are an existing 8.7 million users (or perhaps 87 million users) who are more comfortable with a wall calendar than an online calendar (which they have no context of – because it doesn’t exist in their worlds). These users comprise 89% of the total user base. Let’s make something that’s EASY and INTUITIVE for them.
You can go with the cool new cutting-edge techy calendar that drives 89% of your user base nuts. That’ll get you design awards that mean nothing.
You can do the right thing and make the calendar as familiar and intuitive as possible for your users. The intelligentsia will make fun of you – However, you’ll be so busy selling your devices, and collecting bonuses and stock awards, you won’t have time to care.
Users Pay the Money, and they’ll Vote with their Wallets
Technology companies have an AMAZING ability to completely disregard the importance of what users think and what users value and what makes life easy for users.
- They make the buttons hard to use. Then they blame lack of marketing.
- They don’t polish the software and have lots of bugs which spoil the ‘flow’ for the user. Then they blame lack of a large app store.
- They make the Email App impossibly hard to use. Then they claim they needed 6 processor cores instead of 4.
It’s a strange sort of blindness.
If your device isn’t selling, then, surely, the first area to investigate is whether or not users are having a great experience with it. Why do companies investigate it last?
Even better, think about it BEFORE shipping the device.
This is basically what we’re losing. There’s no more craftsmanship when it comes to hardware, and even less when it comes to software.
We now have two mindsets –
- Make it very cheap or free. Gather lots of customers. Then advertise to them and/or try to turn those ‘free/cheap seeking’ users into profit-generating customers. It’s like going fishing for mackerel and expecting to eat bison burgers for dinner.
- Do lots of marketing and create a need/desire/want in users’ hearts. Then sell products to users that will supposedly fill that longing in their hearts. That strategy fails in the long-term. Users eventually realize that the desire/need/want wasn’t their own.
Neither is providing what customers value most – a GREAT experience with the device.
That’s what it’s all about – Users want a device that ‘just works’ and makes them feel great and doesn’t make them feel ‘stupid’ or ‘helpless’ and that makes their life easier.
Whichever company steps in and fills that REAL need, will become the next super profitable company.