Function vs. Design

We came across a great quote recently on an old blog post:

"If you can give me an application that can accurately predict tomorrow's stock market, I'll put up with the grossest usability issues, even a command line interface. On the other hand, if you give me an application that tells me what already happened on the market, it better have better UX than the one I currently use or I won't switch."

Design, on its own, doesn't sell by itself. Good design makes things easy to use, more obvious and intuitive. If there are several things with equal, or alike, functionality, the one with the best design wins. We can see this apparent in everyday life.


Myspace was the most important social networking site in the world. Can you believe that at one time it surpassed Google as the most visited site in the US?

2008 comes along, and Facebook is the clear winner. Why? Obviously there are numerous reasons, however, user experience and design both played a big part. In 2006 Myspace signed a $900 million, three-year advertising deal with Google. Besides making a boat load of money, the end result of this deal was a Myspace that provided Google exclusive advertising. This resulted in a site that was less easy to use, and slower, compared to a site like Facebook. It impacted the overall design of the site and over user experience.

Myspace has worked on design improvements. From a god-awful design in the early days, they re-branded and re-focused in 2008, yet users still wouldn't respond. Facebook offered a cleaner design and a better experience. Facebook won. What will be interesting to see is how a 'new' Myspace stands up against a Facebook that is beginning to show signs of weakness. Myspace will soon be rolling out a new user interface which looks much more cleaner than the current iteration of Facebook. Will good design win again?


Speaking of Facebook...While it's still a behemoth in the social networking space, reports are continuing to suggest that its starting to lose users. Facebook recently stated that they believe some of their younger users are reducing engagement and switching to other platforms such as Instagram (owned by Facebook).

Facebook initially drew users in thanks to a relatively simple interface. It also met and enhanced user experience at the time. It offered a great photo sharing experience, ways to connect easily with friends, as well as opportunities for entertainment.

View UI changes over the years.

Today, Instagram offers a much more streamlined process, enhances it, and provides a better user experience. While the younger demographic is being drawn more and more to images as a method of communication (eg: Tumblr, SnapChat and Pinterest), is there any wonder why users are spending less time on Facebook?


There is a great article posted in 2008 from Techcrunch which shows the evolution of pre-launch gmail in screenshots. Look at these screenshots and ask yourself if it would be possible, in 2012, for Gmail to become the largest email service in the world with the old UI it once had. In 2011, Gmail released a UI facelift that provided a more minimalist look. One year later, they are the email service.

Besides obvious UI improvements, UX plays a big part. Gmail continues to innovate and offer a much stronger user experience than any of its competitors can match: Google Docs, Calendar, Gtalk, etc, it's meets more what users want.

The design of Gmail surpases that of other platforms, it provides a much stronger user experience, and it wins.


Switching from the digital space to the offline, we can look at cars. Study after study show that when buyers are looking to purchasing a car, its factors such as 'connectedness' and gas-saving technologies that are making the difference these days. The amount of horsepower or other such specs isn't a major factor. Meeting the experience of the users, presenting fantastic design, providing comfort and peace of mind is what matters now.

If specs were the true motivating factor, one could suggest that the US Auto Industry would have never had any challenges competing again Japanese firms. This wasn't the case. Fuel efficiency, connectedness, and price all won over specs. Design won.

Design on its own doesn't sell. We can see this in everyday life. Good design that supports its users, and provides a fulfilling experience, does win. We've listed a few examples here, what are yours? Let us know!