Rise of users and usability

Flashy designers (bleeding-edge) and simplicity gurus often don’t agree when it comes to interaction design. There is a fundamental difference between designing for a client and designing for a client’s client.

What is the objective of the design? Is it to satisfy your client’s design eye? Many of us would say that to get business, their piece of design has to be what the client wants to see. While doing this they often do not design what they need to. So their design may make perfect sense to the designer or even to the client, but a design which a mere reflection of designer’s or client’s personal likings and must haves often does not solve the problem for which the very existence of that design is required. Design, whether for interaction or non-interaction media, has absolute, scientific measures of success that has nothing to do with the opinions of its creator or creator’s client. Most often than not, both these parties have opinions that are personal and intangible.

Usable design always revolves around the user who is going to use it. This design does what it’s meant to do for its users without overwhelming them with fancy stuff and also doesn’t require users to find ways to complete their tasks. Such a design is always based on user’s needs, objectives behind that design, tasks that design is meant to facilitate and/or the message designs’ host wants to convey.

Signal vs. Noise.

Most often than not, every successful design turns out to be a very simple signal. After all, every solution for users’ requirement is made of a simple signal. It’s either the designer or the client and their personal choices that make it a noise. Those unnecessary elements or gimmicks they try to force on the simple signal which turns it into a noise. In all successful designs, usability takes precedence over “cool.” All they need to ask themselves is “Is your user going to gain from these elements and gimmicks? Isn’t the objective of your design to give user what he wants? How foolish you think your users are that you have to write ‘apple’ and draw one too (most of the times an animated one).

Now many would say what about the ‘wow’ factor? Noise gets that ‘wow’ in the first impression – no doubt. But that ‘wow’ normally sounds like this “Wow! This is great” Then there is a pause, admiration and then… “Let’s move to the next one”. So this ‘wow’ is very momentory. Signals also get a ‘wow’, the difference is that it comes after the user uses the design. It sounds like… “Wow! This really works for me.”

When interaction design was in its primitive state in early 90s, poor designs were commonly seen. But then people were more committed to learning due to expense, obligation and limited choices, they were forced to adapt to poorly designed user-interfaces. But things have changed. When it comes to interaction design on digital channels, choice is the users’ ballot, and their votes can be costly.

As interaction design evolved, agencies who understood users and usability by putting users before their own assumptions, have taken design and their own success to all new levels. We all would agree that Apple creates arguably the best user experiences when it comes to interaction design. Careful observation and you would notice that there are no bells and whistles to their designs. They still user the age old mantra of ‘keep it simple’. Many of us find it difficult and believe that it’s easier said than done. I have read somewhere during my art school days, “Try going through all of your design elements and removing them one at a time. If a design works without a certain design element, kill it.”

While beautiful, engaging, impressive, and compelling designs are important for a variety of reasons (including creating brand identity, entertaining and drawing people in, and establishing credibility), design choices need to be weighed against meeting the user’s needs in order for the goal to be achieved.

Isn’t that the ultimate objective?

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