Economist Patricia Funk wrote, “A rational individual should abstain from voting.” I feel the same way about a heavy focus on design.

your design doesnt matterVoting has a cost – in time, effort, lost productivity – with no real payoff. The odds that your vote will actually affect the outcome of an election are very small.

The odds that design is the critical component in your product is also very small. Yet, I still hear from a lot of entrepreneurs and startup teams who say we’re going to “differentiate on design.” Didn’t design get killed as a differentiator in 2012?

Design remains one of the top items when they are thinking about creating a product or business. If you find yourself on this path, here are some things to consider as you look at the product being developed and how design fits into product development.

bad design

Design doesn’t matter:

  1. If your product sucks. The product has to do something well before it ever attempts to look good doing it. If something looks good, but isn’t backed by some other substantial value, then the item itself is of little value.
  2. If no one sees the product. My first business failed because I was too hung up on moving pixels around and not focused enough on getting user feedback and doing the necessary marketing.
  3. If it’s at the expense of good messaging. If you’re on the Internet, you’ve got to be found, and products get found by search engines. Content is weighed heavily on the web, so your visual appeal will only help once people find you.
  4. If the quality isn’t there. You may have a beautiful product but if it breaks or doesn’t function properly, it’s good looks aren’t going to keep people around.
  5. If you’re Microsoft. This may be a cheap shot, but Microsoft has some beautiful and functional products in the market – and they still can’t make a dent.
  6. If it’s prioritized over function. I’m a believer in the cliche, “form follows function.” Once the core activity is right, then it can be improved through design.
  7. If you burn your resources. If you’re a startup, every dollar is precious and waste is an enemy of company runway. Endless tweaking, whether its design related or not, is costly and hazardous.

How this fits into the comparison to voting for me goes back to a classroom discussion in economics 101. The grad student teaching the class gave his argument for not voting, that economically it only makes sense to vote until your vote matters.

I feel the same way about design. Design doesn’t matter, until it does.

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