Broken by Design

When I was a kid, my parents had a table you couldn’t cut things on.

You also couldn’t set glasses on it without a coaster, and anything hot needed a pad under it. It was a beautiful table, but guests didn’t know this because it was covered with a table cloth for protection.

I was an annoying child, so I constantly pointed out how ridiculous this was. The purpose of a table was to eat and drink on, I would proclaim, yet this thing would be harmed by those actions. It was designed to look great without concern for how it would be used.

I’m reminded of that table by a lot of apps I see these days. They look stunning in videos, and the first time you use them you’re blown away by the beautiful animations. You almost feel like you’re using works of art.

But the more you use them the more annoyed you get because they’re designed to look great without thought for how they’d be used. Those mesmerizing transitions you used to love are now slowing you down. The layouts which used to seem so clean are now awkward because things are placed where they’d look the best instead of where they’d make the most sense.

They’re broken by design.

A few years ago a lot of software suffered from lack of design. Now it suffers from too much design. Surely there’s a happy middle ground where software can look and behave in delightful ways without undermining its purpose?

4 thoughts on “Broken by Design

  1. Great observation. However, I would argue with your closing thesis that there is “too much design.” As you’ve pointed out, today’s software still suffers from a lack of design—usability design. (The word doesn’t just refer to visual adornment.)

    Like

Comments are closed.