Great products are useful, usable, and beautiful—in that order

by Chris McGrath | Sep 14, 2022

Several years ago, I thought I had a great new idea for an app: an internal Instagram for employees to collaborate visually. At the time, I was living close to a big all-inclusive resort in St. Lucia, and I thought hotel employees could use the app to report on problems and offer guests a higher level of service.

My idea was full of huge assumptions and a stunning lack of industry knowledge, but that didn’t stop me from doing what any enthusiastic entrepreneur does when they have a new business idea: I designed a brand! I worked on a name, colours, fonts, imagery, and I designed a logo. It was fun!

But good fonts and colours won't get you very far. “Snapwork” didn’t get past the drawing board because it wasn't really a very good idea.

I designed a logo for my idea before figuring out whether I was solving a problem that needed to be solved

My point in sharing this story is that it’s really easy to get caught up in the visual design of a product, a website, or an app. In reality, though, the visual design isn’t nearly as important as whether your product solves a real problem.

Consider Craigslist or Wikipedia: both extremely successful websites, and both with outdated, and some would say ugly, designs. They’re both successful despite their appearance. Why? Because they’re both extremely useful.

At DocuMoose, we help organizations build guided interviews, document automations and other legal tech products. Should they be good-looking? Sure! All other things being equal, the best-looking product wins. But all other things are rarely equal.

It’s far more important to consider: Am I solving a real problem? And who thinks this is a real problem — me? Or have my target customers told me this is a real problem? Steve Blank writes in Your Product is Not Their Problem, “Start with a deep understanding of a customer problem or need before you start pitching your solution.”

Once we’ve determined that our product is truly useful, then we can set about ensuring that it is usable, or easy to use. And if it’s easy to use, then it’s worthwhile to invest effort in making it beautiful.

When a product is useful, usable and beautiful, users will be absolutely delighted — and your product will be unstoppable.

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