Product design considers every element that shapes this experience, how it makes the user feel, and how easy it is for the user to accomplish their desired tasks. This could be anything from how a physical product feels in your hand to how straightforward the checkout process is when buying something online. Product design aims to create accessible, efficient, relevant, and all-around pleasant experiences for the user.
Then, how do we differentiate the good and bad design?
Bad design that misleads the user, just like smoke can fool someone. It obscures the right direction as the smoke does. Whereas the good design is reflective, just like a mirror, it displays the clear truth as a mirror displays the real image of everything.
The characteristics of the bad design include:
- Cluttered interface
- Poor navigation
- Confusing layout
- Complex tasks
- Irrelevant user feedback
- Inconsistent experience
- Difficult content
- Unpleasant color scheme
The users do not want to interact with a product designed poorly as it is not clear to them where to go to achieve their objectives. Hence, they leave bad design immediately. This is like a smoky area from where the people want to go away as soon as possible.
The good design on the other hand is:
- Transparent and visible to its users
- Problem solver
- Easy to understand
- Effective to meet the goals
- Fresh with a pleasant color scheme
It makes users tasks easier for them and they enjoy interacting with the product. It gives them clarity on the provided features and how to follow the correct path to achieve their objectives.
Here’s an example of good and bad design. We will use a parking sign as a study case.
There is too much information on the sign, and notoriously hard to understand because the traffic rules are complex, resulting in the need to convey a lot of information in a small area. Imagine that we want to park on a Wednesday at 8 a.m. You have to read all the signs first to get the desired information.
Try to compare to this sign. The needs drivers want to know whether they can park at a spot. Yes or no, that’s all drivers needed, and that’s all the parking sign shows. This design also used visuals rather than text to convey information. The result is incredibly intuitive: green for OK, red for No Parking. It’s even designed for the color blind, with stripes for No Parking.
But how does it go when it comes to a digital product design? We all must’ve been heard about Nielsen’s ten design principles for product design, here are those principles:
Visibility of system status
The design should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within a reasonable amount of time.
Match between system and the real world
The design should speak the users’ language. Use words, phrases, and concepts familiar to the user, rather than internal jargon. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.
User control and freedom
Users often perform actions by mistake. They need a clearly marked “emergency exit” to leave the unwanted action without having to go through an extended process.
Consistency and standards
Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform and industry conventions.
Good error messages are important, but the best designs carefully prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.
Recognition rather than recall
Minimize the user’s memory load by making elements, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the interface to another. Information required to use the design (e.g. field labels or menu items) should be visible or easily retrievable when needed.
Flexibility and efficiency of use
Shortcuts — hidden from novice users — may speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the design can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.
Aesthetic and minimalist design
Interfaces should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in an interface competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.
Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no error codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.
Help and documentation
It’s best if the system doesn’t need any additional explanation. However, it may be necessary to provide documentation to help users understand how to complete their tasks.
All and all, creating a good design is not just about presenting a pleasant look to your user. It is one of the main parts of bring a better product through better user experience. Especially when it comes to a digital product, users tend to understand what they saw on their screen in a short time, of course with a pleasant look. Understand what your users need, then design based on that. This helps reduce information overload.