• Ritwik Raha

Do you speak 'Design'?



How many languages do we speak? Two, perhaps three?. Maybe some programming languages. Now let me rephrase that question How many languages do we speak universally? What basis of communication do we share with the entire mankind? English? Science? Mathematics? Unknown to most of us we speak a common language: The language of Design. We are never told to sit ‘on’ a chair and ‘at’ a table yet when we face such a situation, we intuitively do the same. How do we know this? How do we know whether to push or pull a door or slide it sideways? How do differentiate using a spoon from using a fork? The answer is ‘We just do!’. Donald Norman in his book The Design of Everyday Things said, “Design is really an act of communication, which means having a deep understanding of the person with whom the designer is communicating.” This means that most of the things we use are designed to convey their purpose.


So if you are creating a chair or building an application to book tickets, your primary requirement is more users. Now for the carpenter making the chair, he has his job cut out for him. He’ll have to create a chair, that’s comfortable to sit in, looks good and has a reasonable price. The developer who has to create the application finds himself in confusion. He can write an algorithm to book tickets and he can code a very elite app. But how does he make the process of booking tickets as intuitive as sitting at a chair? A little while later however he realizes that he has another problem. There are way too many ticket booking applications. How does he convince someone to choose his application? The developer realizes he has to learn from the carpenter and build an application, So he does exactly what the carpenter has done. He notes down what his application needs to be. It has to be comfortable to use It must look or feel good And it must come at a reasonable price Those are the three fundamental pillars of good design. Specifically, those are three points to keep in mind when shaping the experience of a user. Simon Sinek in his book Start With Why has said, “There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” This means a person can either be forced to use an application, through intense marketing, promotions, and viral offers. Or a person can be made interested in using an application. If a user finds using an application easy and comprehensible, they’ll tend to keep coming back.A quick tip for developers here: If your application or your software needs three to four pages for initial startup, then you probably need to revise your design. It is not a coincidence that almost all popular websites and apps have the easiest interfaces out there. Ease of use and comfort is what keeps a user from returning on his third day of use. The ‘Iron Throne’ from Game of Thrones definitely looks majestic. But the carpenter knows that a simple chair with matte polish would sell more. This brings me to my second point: the application should be aesthetically pleasing. An amateur developer would build something with strong vibrant colors and flashing bright animations. An experienced one would build something with lots of negative space and two or three primary colors. Or something that religiously follows Google’s Material Design guidelines. Take a cue from Instagram or WhatsApp or the new Gmail. Simple sells better. The third and probably the most complex idea behind the good design is compromise. Most developers and designers treat their users like idiots and feel they are gullible enough to buy whatever they are selling. This is seldom the case. Users have a very high perception of where things are flowing. If you are asking them to rate your app after every two minutes of use or telling them to buy something off your website on their 1st visit, then they would probably be uninterested. Users are most often willing to pay a reasonable price for the comfort they receive. The trick lies in finding a balance between the two. If promoting fewer ads makes them visit your website every two days, then that’s an affordable compromise. A compromise you should make. English is a universal language today because nearly 400 years ago the British started setting up colonies in almost all parts of the world. This mixed with the fact that Christianity had a head start of 600 years in promoting world literacy rocketed the English language to where it is today. The birth of the internet, the data revolution, pop culture and a lot of other factors contributed to the birth of the new medium of language. Design. The design has slowly overtaken the world, right from our interiors to our websites and the memes we share on our apps. It is shaping culture and giving birth to new ideologies. All this is happening at an incredibly accelerated rate. The world is responding to the design of yesterday. But amidst all this, we have overlooked one very important aspect of this language. It’s only being used to ‘convert’ users or to sell stuff. Which is the last application or website that made you feel happy? Not temporary joy but real happiness. When was the last time you opened your phone or your computer and saw something, or experienced something that moved you? We are the ones who shape human experience through what we design. Therefore we have an intrinsic responsibility to allow our users to feel and experience as human beings are supposed to. Like all languages, design too can make you feel bad or good or nothing at all. So speak well.

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©2020 by Ritwik Raha.