design as a competitive advantage

Design has essentially become one of the key competitive advantages of the killer apps of Web 2.0. Why has design become so important – all of a sudden? Or was it always important? Scott Berkun once said that the best user interface is "no" user interface. The thinking here is that the user should not realize that he/she is working in accordance with some user interface. The user interface should not make its presence felt. This was resonated in an interesting observation made by my architect friend Gianpaolo, while watching the movie – The Usual Suspects. In the movie, Kevin Spacey says, "the greatest trick the devil achieved was to make people believe he didn’t exist." I believe that great UI and application designers make people believe that the user interface is not there.

A majority of people including me, read most blogs through some flavor of a RSS aggregator – reader.Emilychang But there is one blog that I prefer to read on a web site on the browser. EmilyChang’s blog (see OneNote screen clipping on the side)on strategic design is designed in a unbelievably appealing and surprisingly simple style. The choice of colors, the size of fonts, and the placement of items on the blog are visually attractive. The are subtle differences in the structure of the contents of the blog (For example, to expand a post, rather than clicking on the title of the post, you have to click on the actual text of the post, which is not intuitive, but very easily discoverable!!) She conducts interviews with innovative founders of various successful Web 2.0 companies. In a recent post, she has compiled the list of "design philosophies" of each of those companies.

It is apparent from these interviews that the creators of killer Web 2.0 applications consider design as their competitive advantage. While some companies had a quantifiable design philosophy (all functions should be accessible with one click.), several focused on the importance of iterative feedback from the users(release early, release often, listen, learn, incorporate). Interestingly, few designers stressed on "instant gratification." Emily’s list is pretty comprehensive and helps derive the main design trends of Web 2.0, which she depicts as

simple
fast
intuitive
social
minimal
choice
useful
fun

Can these design trends be applied to enterprise software? Can we make ERP systems, simple, social, minimal(you wish!), and fun?

Let’s create the extra-ordinary!

Kintan

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3 thoughts on “design as a competitive advantage

  1. design as a competitive advantage

    design as a competitive advantage
    Design has essentially become one of the key competitive advantages…

  2. Excellent points in your post, thanks. As someone who sees everyday the enterprise-level adoption of “new” trends, I can tell you that design can make all the difference. Take a look at the current dashboard trend. There’s not much new to it, but the designs have gotten very slick and now it is really catching on. See the collection of enterprise dashboard and balanced scorecard screenshots at http://dashboardspy.wordpress.com

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