What is Good Design?: 8 things to keep in mind

Imagine your dream car and how far it goes when it evolves from a sketch on the drawing board to a well-designed vehicle that is both safe and appealing.

1. The design is multifaceted and complex.

There is no single side of “good design” that shines above the rest. The fact that there are so many facets that come together to create a single car only adds to your dream car’s value. The vehicle is a sight to behold because of its intricacy. Similarly, with design, it’s a glorious sight when aspects of thoughtfulness, thoroughness, aesthetics, usability, accessibility, delight and many others combine in a way that empowers human beings to have positive experiences.

2. The design satisfies safety and practicality concerns.

Do you like knowing when someone is going to switch lanes? Thank Hollywood actress, Florence Lorence who created the first turn signal after numerous accidents from vehicles switching lanes. When bad design plagues users, it creates unrest, which in turn is a catalyst that encourages investment in good design and improvements to the experiences of products and services.

3. The design ties things together.

Numerous ideas and schools of thought are brought together to bring meaning and life to the overall driving experience of your dream car. This transcends mere aesthetics and functionality to be something greater. Good design brings everything together to create one well-designed product. While it’s clear that a lot goes into good design, let’s focus on a few of the facets that stand out to us.

4. Good design looks nice, appeals to people (so much that they ignore issues)

Have you ever noticed that you will tolerate usability issues if a product looks good? It’s called The Aesthetic-usability effect and explains that “users are more tolerant of minor usability issues when they find an interface visually appealing.” For example, the latest versions of Apples’ iPhone, are void of the home button which is how one would return to the home screen.

However, removing the home button lead to more screen space and a more appealing and sleeker design. In this case, because of the improvement to the home screen's visual appeal, many users are biased to think positively of the iPhones’ design in spite of the fact that a dedicated home button (that might have been more accessible) was removed and replaced with swiping up on the screen.

Woman pressing iPhone7 button
iphone 10 sceen next to laptop

5. Good design is inclusive and empathetic

Everyone has aspects of their lives that dictate their perception of “good design”.  From their favorite (or least favorite) color to their understanding of common practices or even their experience with the product. Good design understands this and accounts for the difference in context and ability while staying in compliance. Essentially, don't just think about your power users; think of your new and potential users. Think about the user quietly sitting in their living room using your app, and the user in a busy airport with their rambunctious 3 year old using your app. And don’t forget to think about the users that have mental or physical impairments. They may need to use your app too. Even when designing software, ADA compliance has its effects on how you design.

6. Good design is smart

Knowing when and when not to create friction is crucial to good design. A thorough, thoughtful, and ever-evolving understanding of the product will help satisfy the end user and help guide them to their goal. For example, there is a time for friction when it comes to the UX design of a form. If you’re purchasing something on a website, the process of obtaining your information should be frictionless until the final payment stages. The user should easily be able to give you their card information but there must be a validation pop-up (friction) to confirm payment or to make sure the user isn’t closing the page unintentionally.

7. Good design is dynamic/living

The needs, standards, and user base are always changing and so should your design. Good design listens to its users and learns from its mistakes to improve over time. This is done by researching and staying up to date with standard and expectations. These expectations aren’t just the trendy new design practices, but the practices that make sense for your user base and your product. Just following trends may leave your users disconnected and their experiences unimproved, which is not the goal of investing in good design.

8. Good design empowers people

Humans aren’t just mere “users” with textbook personalities and paraphrased problems. Good design allows people to achieve their goals in a way that gives their experience meaning. For example, TurboTax empowers people to do their taxes on their own by changing the meaning of “Doing your taxes yourself.” By streamlining the experience, TurboTax enables people to accomplish a challenging task without it feeling like a challenge. This saves people time, headache, and encourages them to come back again.

The inclusive nature of good design ties directly into accessibility as it takes into account all users; new users, impaired users, and power users. Accessibility is one of those many important facets of good design and as such, investing in accessibility is really just investing in good design. Accessibility is another step on the road to design maturity, which is the kind of design that will put your business and your product on top. It all starts with taking the time to empower your users. All of your users.