Why design isn't just a pretty picture

Why design isn't just a pretty picture

After a recent interview where an art director claimed that "web design is just a pretty picture, not logic", I decided to argue about it on my blog. Of course I completely disagree with such a statement. In reality, design is a much more complex concept. It should be logical, intuitive and user-friendly. Because in the end, design should not only bring aesthetic pleasure, but also make life easier by saving time and effort. This applies to everything from web design and mobile apps to simple flyers.

Beauty without functionality is just empty shells. If the user can't find what he needs, if he spends too much time searching for a button or a form, then something has gone wrong. And in this sense, design is more of a tool than a mere decoration. It needs to be relevant and effective in helping the user achieve their goals and be useful to the business. It's not just choosing a color palette or beautiful fonts. It's about creating a clear and intuitive user interface that should serve the end user's goals and needs first and foremost. That's why when we design, we start by studying the target audience and their needs to create a truly meaningful and effective product. And it doesn't matter what that product is: a website, a service, an app or a poster.

Logic is everywhere

Is design without logic possible in principle. In principle, yes. The only question is whether it will work? Let's look at an example. That would not offend anyone take an example of the site generated by neural network.

brutalist website design

At first glance, the site looks stylish: large text, bright color, large picture. However, the question immediately arises: what exactly does this site offer? What does it do? What is it about? This is a classic example, where the appearance takes the main role, and the essence and functionality go to the second plan at best.

Another example from personal practice is museum websites. When I was researching them for a project, I was surprised at how difficult it can be to find a ticketing section on them. It seems strange, because tickets and tours are the main source of revenue for a museum. You expect a button to buy tickets to be placed prominently, but sometimes it turns into a real quest for the user. So sometimes important pieces of functionality can get lost amongst a beautiful or not-so-beautiful, but not always functional design. At the end of the day, users appreciate simplicity and usability, they appreciate it when they feel they have been thought of.

The most expensive for the most important

What information will most users see? Obviously, the vast majority of users pay attention first to what they see on the first screen. Therefore, the key actions you want users to perform should be available immediately, without too much effort. For example, if it's a museum website, the button to buy a ticket should be large and prominent so users can see it right away. The same with manicure services: the opportunity to sign up should be available from the first seconds of being on the site, without forcing the user to scroll to the bottom of the page.

This plays a critical role in creating the usability of websites and emails. When a user visits your website or opens your email, they expect basic information to be available immediately and effortlessly. But if the information or action they need is too hidden or requires a lot of action and effort to find, having to scroll down somewhere, the likelihood that the user will perform that action is greatly reduced. And the more you have to scroll, the more actions you have to take, the less users will reach the end.

Interestingly, even large and expensive studios can make similar mistakes. Sometimes they add unnecessary elements, do not take into account hierarchy and user attention management. As a result, secondary elements look like primary elements and confuse the user. You have to refine and correct such work, and this leads to additional time and resources. I have had such an experience in my practice.

Let's summarize

An example of a logical and convenient design is Google. The search engine's home page is just a field for entering a query and a "Search" button. Everything is as minimalistic and clear as possible. This allows users to focus on the main task - searching for information.

Of course in this article we've only gone over the very tip of the iceberg, and it's more of a reflection and thoughts on the topic of logic in design than a tutorial. We haven't touched on the story of consistency with the company's overall identity, we haven't talked about the hierarchy and systematization of indentation rules and typography, more product stories with A/B tests, etc. These are all topics for the next articles.

Always think about how your product will be used by users, whether it will be convenient for an elderly person to read your small text on the site of payment of utilities, whether it is convenient for a person driving to read a paragraph of text on billboards, whether the user will understand how to buy a service or product from you or will go to competitors.

Logic and convenience are the main criteria of successful design. They are what make a design effective and help you achieve your goals.

Related Articles


All images are for demonstration purpose only. You will get the demo images with the QuickStart pack.

Also, all the demo images are collected from Unsplash. If you want to use those, you may need to provide necessary credits. Please visit Unsplash for details.