Design For The F*cking “Why”


Apr. 3rd, 2021

A rant with good intentions.

Rants often sound negative and cranky, but sometimes they do a better job communicating a message, as their content is unsolicited and somewhat heartfelt. For that reason (and because I’ve always wanted to use the word “f*ck” over and over in a post), I’m making an exception.

So, here we f*cking go:

There is a phenomenon that keeps occurring amongst designers where many prioritize the visual representation and “cool” transition effects at the expense of user experience. This is most apparent in online design communities but also when talking to designers and design teams.

There are countless colorful and refreshing designs out there, with beautiful transition effects, but the vast majority utterly fails the “Why” test.

Why did the designer who created a slick-looking invoice leave out important information such as the invoice number and item descriptions?

Sure, it does look slick, but it is also f*cking useless.

Why did the design team from a reputable bank decide to occupy nearly 30% of the vertical space of the website interface with a header containing a playful illustration of the city’s skyline that changes to light or dark depending on the time of the day?

I love my city’s skyline, but my primary goal is to get to the numbers when I log in to my bank account. Seeing a giant illustration that changes colors certainly is interesting, but in this context, it is also f*cking pointless.

Why did the UI designer decide to animate every single UI element in the app view?

Yes, the transition effects are impressive but at the same time impractical, oh yes, and f*cking useless.

I could go on and on but my point is not to rant against designers, as at times I also find myself dazzled by the latest “trends,” and making similar mistakes at the expense of UX.

How can designers avoid falling into the “latest trends” trap

A good rule of thumb to prioritize user experience and realize that visuals are secondary and can always be improved later. Ask the “Why” for every UX decision you make. The answer ought to be convincing, but if it ends up being something along the lines of: “Because it looks gorgeous!” start from scratch!

It takes a lot of effort to build something meaningful. I always say to my team “great UX doesn’t just happen, we must iterate our way to it”. It takes numerous iterations to get there, but you will know when your work is “ready,” as all the tough decisions you had to make have now morphed into an amazing experience, an experience you’ll be able to expose to scrutiny and defend with confidence. An experience that will make a difference in people’s lives.

The core of every great product is made of a meaningful UX that is aesthetically pleasing — in that particular order. Ask the “Why?”, create meaningful experiences and in time, you will realize, that the sense of fulfillment that comes from making a difference in the users’ lives is by far greater than the temporary excitement that comes from compliments and likes on social media.

Thank you for reading.