The more I study user experience, the more I realize how important good design is. In fact, I believe consumers in most markets expect it. Personally, when I visit a website that looks dated, I immediately leave irregardless of how valuable the information or site might be.
A number of senior designers from major Internet firms — including Twitter, Google, Pinterest, Airbnb and many more — are working together to create a documentary about the power of good design. Sponsored by InVision, you can view the trailer here. It looks like it will be very powerful. I look forward to seeing it.
Good design, when coupled with a user experience focus, has the power to completely change an industry. A perfect example is Nest, who created a revolutionary approach to a simple device — the home thermostat. It's true that good engineering was required to make it possible — but that's not really the problem anymore — now it is more about creating a unique user experience that is simple, intuitive and tranformative.
Everyone understands that Apple transformed the smart phone industry. They did it with mobile music players and again with tablets. Great engineering was definitely a part of it, but what really made these Apple products stand out was their killer UX-based design.
The interesting thing about the mobile smart phone is that the available apps today have changed users expectations dramatically. Users now expect clean, simple user interfaces — for websites, and for desktop, web and mobile apps. When they find an app that is too hard, too complex or nonintuitive, regardless of what problem(s) it may solve, it withers away and dies.
The documentary points out that many startups with billion dollar valuations were either created or heavily influenced by designers. That's a fairly new phenomenon. To me, it is evidence of markets and users' expectations that is maturing. Firms with industry leading designs are now winning in their respective markets.
Some markets are lagging way behind in good design. Having spent the last four years in the low end web hosting industry, I see a huge issue here. Many low end hosting providers use cPanel, for example, as the user's management tool for managing their hosting service. cPanel has the worst user interface of any web app I have ever used. At my last company, we were working on trying to hide the cPanel UI. The reason? While we had huge signups every month, we were losing 90% of them, mostly because it was simply too hard. Where are these novice users, who represent the majority of new signups for low end web hosting today, going? To simpler solutions like Weebly, Wix and Web.com. Or they just give up — for now anyway.
Industries that do not embrace good design will lose. They are simply going to be displaced by upstarts with a great user experiences built on excellent designs. We've already seen it happen in many markets. The domino effect will continue. Those firms with the best designs are going to win.