Ain’t nothing wrong with making your ugly site suck a little less

Via Josh Porter, I just read Aral Balkan’s rant about a recent article that made the rounds on hacker news called “How to Make Your Site Look Half-Decent in Half an Hour“.

The thrust of Aral’s rant is “design is not veneer”. And yeah, I get it. My colleagues and readers here have heard me make that same grumble. Some days, I feel like a large chunk of the tech ecosystem thinks that design is exactly veneer. Although heck, even the UX community itself can’t, in simple terms, explain what UX is.(1)

But there is nothing wrong with encouraging developers to do some basic cleanup of a butt-ugly application.

Great design is really hard. You can’t just read a book and get it.(2)  However, neither is it magic. Great design takes practice, aptitude, deep thoughtfulness about a context, user feedback and iteration.

A really useful app does not necessarily need great design to be successful, but it *can* be stopped dead in its tracks by bad design. And from a “lean startup” perspective, bad design can get in the way of learning from the market.

So yes, I think every application creator should be thinking about the deeper design issues. Hopefully they are thinking about utility, viability, desirability, usability most of the time. Hopefully they question every decision, and don’t just blindly follow a checklist.

Still, let’s be honest, there ain’t nothing wrong with making an ugly site suck a little less.(3)


(1) of course, product managers can’t clearly define product management either
(2) and yes, same with coding. A week on Code Academy won’t turn one into a software developer (although I still encourage designers to become more code savvy – even a little goes a long way, same as design with developers). That’s why collaboration between diversely talented people is so yummy.
(3) by which I mean, for any grammar crazies out there, “there is nothing wrong with…” and by site I also mean “app”