Design is How it Works

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

– Steve Jobs

I’ve read this quote a long time ago, but only recently registered to Quora. A post on there gave me a new perspective and a practical understanding on it.

Design can make or break a product. We are getting more and more impatient so products must have shorter learning curves.

Here is the ideal situation: you sit someone down in front of your product, who doesn’t know anything about it, and it will work how he assumes it will work. Because design guides usage paths, if done the right way. With perfect design the need for the help section or the manual can drastically decrease. Even for complex things.

Getting to the point through browser history…

Think about the web browser. Here is a small gallery of some of the milestone Browsers, Netscape, Internet Explorer and Firefox:

Netscape Navigator 2

Netscape version 2

Internet Explorer 5

Internet Explorer 5

Firefox 3

Firefox 3

Still with me? You’re thinking now it’s the simplest of the things I could have ever come up with. Yeah,  simple to you, because you’re used to it. But it changed quite a bit during the years.

For someone who didn’t have any real contact with technology since this beauty below, it is an interesting position to be in. And a hard one also. They have to learn everything you learned in 20 years in a couple of days.

Motorola DynaTAC

Motorola DynaTAC

And from what I’ve read it’s not easy. Michael Santos is a guy who went to prison in 1987 and came out in 2013. The world changed in that interval. As he came out, he bought himself some Apple gadgets as he heard they are easier to use. He started using the internet. Michael had a hard time syncing gadgets and most importantly understanding what a browser was, check out this quote from his Quora answer:

For example, I never understood what people meant when they spoke of a “browser.” In fact, I just asked my wife to define a browser, and when she described it as a program that would allow me to access the Internet, I gave her a blank stare.

“But I thought the browser was the little text box on top of the screen, where I type in what I’m looking to find on Google.”

“No honey,” she said. “That’s the URL bar.”

How this relates to design? Google solved this problem. Read the bold part of the quote above. Now look up to your Chrome address bar. They turned it into the “browser”, you can directly search the web by typing on it, just as Michael intuitively tried to do in a Safari.

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