Usability is Design

I don’t have a snappy title for this post.  This just has to be the title, because it is exactly what I need to say.

After watching the greatest movie ever made for designers and subsequently having some great conversation with David Laribee this past weekend, David made a statement that has been stuck in my head all week:

“Usability is design.”


I fully agree with this statement.  Having read The Designer’s Bible to help me with the web design I’ve been doing the past two months, I’ve been looking at everything with a much more critical eye.  And everything I notice is a usability issue.  Yes, flashy touches are nice, but…are you sure? 

In our most recent project, the devs made this thing happen so that when you add a specimen to an order, the background of the related box softly flashes this very subtle green, just for a second.  It is so slick and so hot, and it is the perfect visual indicator that the action you took was accepted by the system.  It’s not just something flashy and there to look fancy; it is useful.  That’s what I like; I could care less for Web 2.0-lookin’ jazz and noisy, crowded interfaces, give me something useful.

Think about some sites you maybe frequent: Google and Netflix.  What the hell does Google have, design-wise (besides an awesome logo on special occasions )?  Nada.  It’s white.  It’s got a searchbox and some links at the top.  It’s boring.  However, I can get anywhere I need within Google with those Plain Jane links.  I love being able to look at images from the context of my search; I love being able to get to my mail from there so I can paste a link in and send it off.  It’s easy.  It’s usable.  What else could they possibly need?  It is one instance where All the White Space in the World doesn’t kill me.  Because they don’t need anything else.

And Netflix…God, could there be a better website?!  I have never needed to navigate away from where I am in order to do something I want to do.  I can always get to whatever I need from the context of the page I am on.  It’s so damned usable.  Have you ever had to look up how to find/do something on Netflix?  Dubious.  The design of the page just falls into place based on the usability. 

And that’s how you should design.

Don’t design with flashy hotness in mind.  Design with usability in mind.  Usability should always be your primary focus.  If you are a designer you probably know how to make things pretty and know what people want to see.  So that stuff will fall into place, eh?

Usability is design.  Don’t let things get noticed.  Don’t make people look for how to do something in your software.  Make it intuitive; let the hotness lay naturally on top of the usability.

I could make this a longer post, but sommmmeeeebody always complains about my long posts, so I’ll just leave you with The Least Usable Popular Website Ever:


Poke around it.  Let your hate grow.  Build yer shit better than this.  Go go go!

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