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Just Because Something Functions, Doesn't Mean its Good: Five Principles for Designing Beautiful Apps

Just Because Something Functions, Doesn't Mean its Good: Five Principles for Designing Beautiful Apps

Posté par Mike Burn le

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Too often looking at poorly designed BI or analytics tools is like a punch in the gut: welcome to work – you’re going to be miserable.

I’ve been driven to distraction by being told what a data visualization for the enterprise should look like. Imagine hearing, “Oh, you can’t use an iPhone at work, it’s too pretty - you’ve got to use this ugly thing crafted from concrete and twigs instead.” Alternatively, user interfaces can border on the absurd; every visual effect splattered and squashed onto the screen rendering the ‘dashboard’ causing it to look like a fanciful kitchen stove with knobs, dials, thermometers and the ubiquitous speedometer visualization. We’ve all seen them and been subjected to use them. I'm not a fan.

Instead, we want our Guidewire Live customers to have a more pleasant experience, not just because we like them, but because we want to make data more accessible and useful for them. To that end, we established some design principles to help guide why Guidewire Live looks like it does.

We began with a simple equation: form = function = emotion

Think about it, how many of those other analytics tools take into account how you might actually feel using them? Out of this equation fell these five principles:

1. Positive Affect “*Emotions are the stuff of life.” - Jon Elster*

  • Designing to be usable is like cooking to be edible. It’s not enough; the design will have higher standards. The design will consider people first.

  • We want to elicit emotions for the users of Live: Engaged. Fun. In control. Reassured. Trusting. Immersed. Knowledgeable. Connected. Happy. Enthralled. Powerful. Motivated.

  • We see, we want to touch, we want to explore - the design will elicit positive affect.

2. Transformative “*Just because ideas are tenacious doesn’t mean they’re worthy” - Tim Minchin*

  • We innovate to win, innovation opens new markets, creates new products. Innovation differentiates.

  • How will Live’s design change the world and how will the world change Live’s design?

  • The design will be transformative from the status quo.

3. Wayfinding *“**Nothing is pleasanter to me than exploring” - Walter Savage Landor*

  • This is the concept of aiding people in navigation; it prevents frustration, and enables people to find the information they are looking for. Wayfinding informs where to go if there is no destination in mind; or gives clear direction on how to get to one.

  • Therefore, the design:
    + is consistent; knowledge is transferable.
    + encourages discovery.
    + delivers what is expected.
    + is forgiving - it is easy to get back.

4. Beautiful “*Just because something functions correctly, doesn’t mean it’s any good.” - John O’Nolan*

  • The design must not merely be aesthetically pleasing – we aspire for it to be beautiful. Attractive products work better; perception is reality in this regard (clean cars drive better).

  • The design will not only be pleasing to the eye, but functionally beautiful; e.g. typography should have the correct balance of size, weight and positioning to give the structured information readability, impact and rhythm.

5. Minimalist “*Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to remove” -* Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  • By removing notions of superfluous functional components, the design allows the content to be the main focus.

  • A minimalist design simplifies and streamlines the mental map.

Hopefully that gives you a little insight into Guidewire Live’s design philosophy, and maybe inspires something you can use on your future projects. Being an enterprise application should never be an excuse for bad design.


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