Where Do Brilliant Design and Functionality Intersect?

October 03, 2016 / ACT WITH PURPOSE

Where Do Brilliant Design and Functionality Intersect?

October 03, 2016

Bulldog Drummond Practicing Uncommon Sense

We’re a team of business leaders, design thinkers, writers and brand strategists committed to doing things in uncommon ways. We’re curious about the people and places around us and fascinated by the search for what’s next. 

A common misconception about design is that it just looks really good. What many people don’t realize is that any given design has likely been thought through and agonized over down to the very last little detail. Brilliant design is always driven by a clearly defined purpose, and the outcome is where purpose and functionality meet stunning visuals. The process of combining the two takes an enormous amount of time, thought and effort. 

We recently had a conversation with the in-house product team at Modernize—an online service that offers homeowners expert guidance and decision-making tools to take on home improvement projects with confidence. We learned about their straightforward online approach to helping people create memorable home experiences. The Modernize team believe that to build the most positive experience, innovation and understanding your customer are key. 

Here’s what the team had to say:

Q: How do you balance brilliant design and function?

A: It's not necessarily about striking a balance. It's a path that always begins with nailing down usability and functionality, then applying aesthetic values that enhance them. We lead with a clear purpose and follow with creative design. When you've made a good user-friendly design, it's usually because you let aesthetics enhance the usability that you created at the beginning. We prioritize functionality because we want to make sure our design serves a purpose beyond its aesthetic value.

A good example lies in our homepage design. We connect homeowners with trusted home remodeling pros who specialize in four main areas: solar energy, windows, heating & air systems, and roofing. So our homepage not only provides visitors with these clean navigation options, but employs different geometric graphics that double as logos for each of our core trades. Our creative aesthetic helps point the user toward a goal rather than distract from it.

Q: What are the most important aspects of design for a positive user experience?

A: At Modernize, spacing and readability are what we tend to strive for first because we know that in any given web experience, the user either wants information or to get something done, all in the fastest way possible. So we create our design based on what we know is our customers’ purpose for visiting our site. Maybe they aren’t even sure what they want and we need to show them—either way, the design should bring the user what they need with little to no friction. Friction means not being able to find what you're looking for or not getting what you want. We utilize whitespace and always make paths and content as clear as possible so that our experience design serves the needs of our customers.

Q: How do you decide on the ideal user to focus on? How does this decision affect your overall design choices?

A: We have identified numerous personas through user research. For any given design, we pick one or two of these personas at which to aim our design. The persona we choose gives us a clearly defined sense of the purpose which our design must serve. For example, if the persona is an older gentleman, we wouldn't design a Pinterest-like experience where you bookmark visuals and curate content because that’s probably not what he’s looking for. Instead, we prioritize hierarchy, assuming he’s on a quest for specific information.

Q: How do you use innovation in your user experience?

A: I’d say the biggest thing that blocks innovation is assuming that something can't be done. If a member of our team assumes that our creative technologist can't code this crazy interaction they have in mind, or that the business can't support this particular experience, we’re potentially missing out on something amazing. So we always try to resist assuming “it can’t be done”.

Uncommon Sense Takeaways:

  1. Creating anything new - whether it is a product, an article, an experience or the framework for an entire company, requires a clearly defined purpose. When you are clear on the purpose behind your intentions and actions, beauty and creativity fall into place.
  2. When you are providing a service or a product, always keep your consumer at the center. Your purpose should always be informed and inspired by their needs.
  3. To communicate your purpose in a compelling manner, you need to know who you are speaking to.
  4. “Can’t” has no place in your purpose. Take risks, dare to fail, and remember that bold moves are worth making when you’re acting with purpose.

Bulldog Drummond Practicing Uncommon Sense

We’re a team of business leaders, design thinkers, writers and brand strategists committed to doing things in uncommon ways. We’re curious about the people and places around us and fascinated by the search for what’s next. 

A Hopeful Sense of Purpose by José Pierre
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Innovation is possible anywhere. You just can’t approach it the same way everywhere. #uncommonsense @meghkeaney https://t.co/zD1Sjrfx1c