Design Is Wrong

by Zack on June 14, 2009

Design Is Wrong

This is a real conversation I had just recently:

“We really need to improve the design of this product.”
“No. We don’t have time to work on the design. Let’s just make it usable.”

I have this conversation a lot. I say design and they hear fancy icons. Most software developers associate design with prettiness rather than usability. That leads me to a simple conclusion: design is wrong. The idea is good, but the word isn’t saying what I want it to say. I’ve started a search to find a better word for good design.

User experience is an academic term. It is accurate, but it doesn’t give people the feeling that it should be part of the process from the beginning.

Usability also feels like it comes last. “We’ll do the architecture and then spend a little time on the usability.”

Improve the interface also feels like just a part of the process; the icing on the cake.

So I’m looking for a new term. Something that conveys the need to prioritize the human who will use the software and how they want to use it. It needs to show people that design is part of the process from the beginning and design can drive technical specifications. I’m probably preaching to the choir by writing here.

How do you handle this issue? What terms do you use to make people who don’t think much about design start thinking about it? Which terms do you use to convey a feeling that design is more than pretty icons?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Gus June 15, 2009 at 7:27 am

Yeah, that’s because “web designers” are often folks who came from the Graphic Arts industry during the .com boom. They are the same folks who gave rise to the vast number of fixed pixel width pages of that era (because that level of control is what they knew from working with print media). I agree that “design” isn’t going to communicate well. “Make the page easier to use” probably gets you where you want to go, though it’s a mouthful. “Prevent the user from cursing about our application” is another one :)

Molly July 30, 2009 at 2:45 pm

How about hmm… Information Architecture?

Zack July 30, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Molly, I’ll have to try it, but I’m worried people think more about Edward Tufte then user experience design when they here Information Architecture.

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