What is a well-designed product?

When I think about well-designed products, basically, I think of something that could solve a need or problem to someone in their daily life. These products need to be affordable, easy to use and of course, aesthetically attractive. After all, nobody wants an unattractive object at home nor in the office. When considering a Website or a mobile App, these essential principles are still true in addition to a clean intuitive design which makes the navigability easier and faster.

I selected three well-designed products among my experience as designer and user in order to illustrate my standpoint.

1. The Pantosh chair by Latoog has been inspired in two ageless classical chars among the furniture design world. This Brazilian prizewinning design with graceful simply lines is made of plywood, an ecologically sustainable material, goes beyond its intended functionality, is ergonomically correct. With such a delightful and peaceful design, the only thing that comes to mind is to sit down and relax. Isn’t it an affordance as Don Norman teach us in “The Design of Everyday Things”? In addition, you can find this pleasant design in three options: armchair, children’s chair and stool.

Pantosh Chair family by Laoog

2. Dropbox is an excellent specific virtual place we all need to know in this fast-growing digital world. Documents, pictures, videos and anything else we may need are accessible at any time, anywhere in Dropbox. The clean well-designed homepage and website with amusing intuitive icons clearly invite you to sign up for free, a nice example of simplicity and proficiency. I still cannot forget to mention the adaptive design to others platforms which keeps it clear and intuitive as well. Dropbox also allows you to share your files with fellows without any extra storage space for other user, even in free accounts. As a user at least by the last five years, I cannot remember any time this product has failed me.

3. Evernote is another well-designed product extremely useful nowadays. It helps you to keep your personal and professional life organized with all your notes, documents, appointments and anything else you find important in the web. Easy to use and access anytime and anywhere, with its automatic synchronization among your phone, tablet and computer, each one also well-designed, again an excellent example of responsive design. The homepage is as simple and intuitive as the open video, showing how helpful this app can be. I saved my first note on 2012 since than I felt in love with Evernote.

On the other hand, we are constantly bombarded by badly-designed products which may need an improvement. Most of all with good acceptance and large number of users, however in a closer look, we can see that one can always improve what is already good.

I selected now other three examples of products that should be improved in my point of view.

1. The Favela (Shantytown) Chair by the Campana Brothers is another Brazilian prizewinning design that acquired fame and respect among the art trendsetters. Although the designers became famous exactly by inquiring the design functionality, we can no longer ignore the essential terms of a well-designed product. The chair is indeed a beautiful piece of art but as a chair, it has poor ergonomic application. I could sit in this chair to take a picture, but would hardly sit down to watch a movie or read a book. What is a chair for after all?

Favela (Shantytown) Chair by the Campana Brothers

2. The Nasa Website is a successful web page with an awesome content to all space lovers, bring us the newest human discoveries and achievement into the immeasurable universe. A knowledge that leaves us proud and conscious of our place into life. The homepage however, based in a heavy modular system with several interesting links. All of the choices create hesitation on the users by the large range of possibilities. Beyond that, each box has a white background under the subtitle, giving us excessive visual information. It is an institutional important website with so interesting subject available, so, a clean intuitive web design could increase the usability and the navigation into it. It is an institutional and important website with so many interesting subjects available, so, a clean intuitive web design could increase the usability and the navigation of the site.

3. TripAdvisor is a useful and interactive website and app for someone like me, who loves to travel and experience different cultures. Based on customer’s background, this product helps you to take into consideration essential reference from the city you plan to travel to. The site offers advice on restaurants, hotels, and locations to visit. My considerations however, are about the amount of information you have at the same time in the home page; the second bar of research that call to action offers almost the same search possibilities to the first one on the top of the page; and the feedback form from the place you visited is confusing and repetitive. Some few changes could improve this amusing travel app making easier for the site navigation.

It is pretty amazing to understand the amount of job and effort behind a good product. The correct choices are just the begging of the process, it does not come without careful attempts and observations of results. Some works better than others and we must be cautious at every single detail, every particular moment from the draft until the final production itself. We need to put apart our ego and listen to the feedbacks all the time and from anyone. As I have just read in Mike Monteiro’s book (“Design is a Job”), the problem is not the design itself, the point goes straightforward the designers. We need to handle this situation once for all. “We want to do design or we want to sell design?” and quoting the author again:

“Not only can a design change the world, a designer should. This is the best job in the world! Let’s do it right.”
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