Functional Beauty vs. Beautiful Function. The Real Impact of UX/UI. – tbpmx featuring Natalia Derechin
If something is visually stunning but doesn’t work, does it fulfill any purpose?
Your friend invites you to dinner. You’re excited—he lives in a nice penthouse, on a nice street, in a nice part of the town. You wear your prettiest black dress with a nice pair of heels. When you arrive, the butler opens the door and shows you to the living room—It’s evident that no expense was spared—everything is perfect.
You look at the gorgeous pieces of art that hang on the walls before you sit down on the plush emerald sofa. As you wait, you’re offered a glass of wine, but before your lips touch the glass, the six cups of tea you had at home come rushing. You ask the butler to show you to the bathroom.
He politely leads you down the hall, past the dining room, and eventually into the kitchen. You chuckle slightly, knowing obviously that he’s playing a joke on you, when suddenly you spot the most extravagant toilet you’ve ever seen, next to the fridge. THE FRIDGE.
THE BATHROOM IS IN THE KITCHEN. WOAH. WHO DESIGNED THIS? THIS IS TERRIBLE.
Ok, story-time over. I’m sorry if you suffered a little reading that, but stories like these are metaphorically true. It seems to be that people tend to focus only on the aesthetics of their final product instead of investing in the original layout in the first place.
If you still have no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain it. I’m a UX designer. Many people have no idea what I do for a living. Some assume I’m an expensive graphic designer (true story) while others just nod and pretend they know. I think it’s important to understand from the get-go that UX is an extremely broad term and we’re just going to skim the surface.
What is UX? UX is short for User Experience. It’s the experience you have every time you interact with anything— a website, an app, a parking meter. It’s the creation of functionality. Does the interaction with the website, app, or parking meter feel natural or completely foreign? Do you feel that the interaction makes you feel accomplished or feel incompetent? Do you feel happy or sad after the interaction? All of these feelings are what determines a good user experience or a bad user experience. Instagram, for instance, is a great example of a good user experience. Instagram is self-explanatory, the layout makes sense, there is no need for a tutorial, and people of most ages (including my grandmother) have clear intuition when they come in contact with the app. There is little room for frustrated users due to the clarity of the app. If you ask me, this is exactly what every app should aim to be— a self-explanatory, inclusive app that leaves everyone satisfied.
On the other hand, we have UI. What is UI? UI is short for User Interface. UI is another important aspect of the design process. UI is what makes the website, app and even, parking meter attractive. It entails the color, the typeface, the buttons that are utilized. It’s an incredible part of the design process, but going back to my toilet metaphor, does it matter how beautiful your toilet is if it’s in the wrong place? Probably not.
This is the difference between UX and UI. A UX designer will always make sure the toilet is in the bathroom and the stove is in the kitchen. Whereas a UI designer will make sure that the toilet has the perfect shade of ivory and the stove has the perfect copper finishes.
So, what’s more important? Functional Beauty or Beautiful Function? If you ask me, there is no beauty without function. If you come across a beautiful product that does not fulfill its purpose, then it defeats the point. But, if you come across a product that fulfills its purpose but isn’t pretty, it still fulfills its purpose.
This isn’t to say that UI is not an important piece of the design puzzle. It’s every bit as crucial, but it seems to me that UX is treated as a second-class citizen. Many assume that beauty is the answer to most problems, but in my experience, if there is no functionality in design, then it becomes art. Basquiat is great to look at in a museum, but not great when you’re relying on his art in order to make an insurance payment.
My ultimate truth is simple. UX and UI are intertwined for life. They are essential parts of designing, but, without UX, there is no UI. People should invest more in UX because, at the end of the day, a well-designed product will always be more efficient than a beautiful one that lacks functionality.