Good Design

What constitutes “good design”? Is this good design? (Image courtesy of Klizos.)

Animated gif of an “Unsubscribe” button that moves when the mouse gets close to it.

Design is about purpose and intent. To answer, “Is this good design?” We must also answer: good for who?

For the person who wants to prevent you from unsubscribing, this is “good design”. The design assigns a function which follows purpose and intent.

For the person who wants to unsubscribe, this is devilishly bad design.

Hence the question: good design, but for who?

As another — oft discussed — example: look at all those product design shots on Dribbble. Do they represent “good design”?

Screenshot of a variety of aesthetically-pleasing shots from Dribbble.

Again, one must ask: good for who? Based on what purpose and intent?

If these shots are designed to garner attention, be visually appealing, get likes, and increase visibility for their creators — and do it — you can argue they constitute “good design”.

If they are designed as a UI solution to a problem for end users, who knows? It’s hard to know whether a static picture depicting dynamic software helps a real-world human achieve a particular goal.

“Good design” hinges not only on knowing intent, but knowing whose intent.

Is the intent to solve a problem for the user of a piece of software? Or is the intent to solve a problem for the owner of the software? Interests don’t always overlap.

In such cases, stating a priority of constituencies can be a vital tool. Where interests overlap, everyone wins. However, where interests diverge or stand in tension, a stated priority of constituencies helps define and evaluate the “good” in “good design”.