A user in total control is a designer’s nightmare
How do you balance the creative control you give to the users, the usability of the product they make with your tool and the flexibility of that tool?
We designers have always had a problem of handing over creative control to the general population — the basic users. There are two reasons for this. The first is obvious: We are the ones who are supposed to know the principles of design and usability. Some of us were born with this feeling of what feels and looks right, while other designers have learned it — at least good designers eventually have.
The second reason is that, unlike users, we see the world in another way. We see what can be done to improve the things we use every day. For example, we might remember a restaurant not by its name or location, but by its poorly chosen typeface for the logo, as Tobias Frere-Jones recalls in the movie Helvetica.
In simple words, designers should be the ones who know what’s right and should know how to fix it when it’s not.
But other people also have a gift of aesthetic feeling, a gift to recognize beauty. It turns out that we’ve had it for a long time, and we need it in our daily lives. We believe that products that look good also work better, taste better and are more trustworthy. Zoltán Gócza has gathered quite a few points to demonstrate that aesthetics are important to people.
Ordinary users, then, just like designers, recognize beauty and know what’s right and not right. This is not where the problem of handing over creative control arises. The problem is that they don’t know the principles that designers do. There’s nothing to guide them to create something both functional and beautiful. Most of the time, they just put together a bunch of stuff that they think looks cool and end up with something like the MySpace site above.
This is an extreme example, but you get the point. I wonder how many poorly designed PowerPoint presentations (like image 2 above) you have seen during your college years (if you studied at a non-design college). I know I’ve seen way too many poorly chosen typefaces and colors combined with unsuitable backgrounds and animations.
Unlike designers, ordinary users know what’s right but don’t know how to fix what’s not right or how to create something that looks and works right from scratch.