Design Is Driven By Goals, Not By Visuals

Ben Groulx
Apr 04, 2014
Design Is Driven By Goals, Not By Visuals

It's been a couple weeks now that Facebook has launched its newly redesigned news feed. Despite the many mixed feelings about it, the redesign brings the web interface closer to its iOS counterparts -- which is great for product consistency, but is it conducive to Facebook's business goals and (perhaps more importantly) a better user experience?

Dustin Curtis, a well-known designer and startup advisor, was one critic who was pretty vocal about the decisions and reasoning behind the Facebook redesign (see "Whatever goes up, that's what we do"). In his writeup, Dustin claims Facebook chose an avenue of a design that was more beneficial to short-term numbers -- meaning ad sales and immediate revenue -- as opposed to designing a better user experience.

In response, Julie Zhou, Facebook's Product Design Director wrote about the rationale of the redesigned news feed, and she drives home several important points (see "Whatever's Best For The People, That's What We Do") that can be applied to design as a whole. Here's what we can take out of it…

1. Your Screen Is Not Everyone's Screen

Those working in the web industry can easily forget that they are not making products for themselves, but for people out in the "the real world." Designers are sometimes trapped in a land that is often a small bubble of the highest denominators, whereas the user base -- the true users -- may be having an entirely different user experience.

"It turns out, while I (and maybe you as well) have sharp, stunning super high-resolution 27-inch monitors, many more people in the world do not." - Julie Zhou

The bottom line for designers? Learn your users. Target audience research is a must -- you are designing for them, not for you. What can clients take away? Just because you see and use a service / product / web site in a particular way, does not mean your users will too. Embrace fluidity, and respect that your design has to work for the lower denominators, not the highest.

2. Delight Users First and Foremost

Your users -- your audience, your market, your people -- should drive the way your product performs, functions, and looks. The research must dictate what and how people are using your product, and will steer the direction of future iterations. A more beautiful approach may not mean more usable, and a more usable approach does not mean less beautiful.

"The old design was worse for many of the things we value and try to improve. … most of the people we showed the [the first version of the] design to told us they didn't like it more than what they previously had." - Julie Zhou

3. Always Iterate, Always Improve

Products are finished on launch; publishing a design is in fact just a step in a long line of constant analyzing, optimizing, and refining. Heck, even perhaps completely redesigning. Every step you take after measuring should be to take the data and plot out steps to refine your design.

"The new design we're currently rolling out to everyone delivers richer and larger photos, videos, and statuses. It cleans up a lot of clutter." - Julie Zhou

Don't be afraid of change. Something is working "fine" right now, but there is always room for improvement. That is why we at Custom Fit Online call ourselves a "data-informed consulting company," because we look at the information, we measure it, and we make appropriate changes to affect the bottom line of the products we make.

4. Love the Work You Do

If you are not happy with the kind of work you are doing, it is time to find an alternative. Clients, if you cannot trust your designers to make and execute decisions that will reinforce and improve your bottom line, it's time to look elsewhere. Designers, be proud of the work you are doing; you are making someone else's life better, and that is absolutely wonderful.

"As a designer, that's something I'm proud to stand behind." - Julie Zhou

How do you feel about the new Facebook news feed redesign? Is it a step up -- or down -- for you? After reading Julie's insight, does it give you a new appreciation to the reasoning behind some of the changes done? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter and Facebook.

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