I’ll be delivering a new presentation concept about “merchandising” at the O’Reilly Web 2.0 Expo in New York this September 18th (and again two weeks later in Amsterdam at Euro IA). Not about merchandising as in the design of retail environments (offline or online), but about merchandising as in how products themselves are designed to make people want to buy them.
Many UX designers see “merchandising” as another flavor of marketing, and therefore see it as something different from, or even opposed to, good UI design. It’s the evil part of the product design process that says we need to put 100 buttons on the remote control so that they can put 100 bullets on the box, which in turn will help the product sell from the shelves in the stores.
6. Is UI design marketing?
User interface design is not marketing.
Software developers loathe marketing, so if they think that UI design is marketing, then they will loathe UI design.
The qualities of software that make for a good advertisement or computer-store demo are not the same qualities that make software usable and pleasant to work with long-term, day-in day-out. Often these qualities are opposites.
A shopper may choose the microwave with more buttons, because it seems â€œmore powerfulâ€. However, the shopper will soon find out that it does the same thing as any other microwave, you just have to spend longer figuring out which button to push.
It is easy to fool people into buying something that is against their own best interest.
Donâ€™t do that.
I’m not sure I agree with this entirely. The user experience designerâ€™s job is essentially no different than what the industrial/product designerâ€™s job has been for a century: To design products that people want to use. A product that is empirically hard to use but that people perceive as easy or fun to use because of delightful UI characteristics can be successful. A product that makes a lot of noise, takes up a lot of space, is expensive to maintain, and has a complicated interface might be extremely desirable and satisfying to many people simply because it makes them feel powerful using it, despite the measurable waste associated with the design.
A designer who neglects marketing concerns and designs a product that the target audience sees as undesirable (because, for example, it lacks a sexy list of features or a glossy interface) is just as bad as a designer who neglects production concerns and creates something that is prohibitively expensive and time-consuming to build (to manufacture, program, whatever).
And unfortunately for us designers who favor elegance and simplicity, there is a large cohort of consumers and purchasers who feel a *lot* better about instead owning products that they are confident have the most buttons and bullet points, regardless of usability or even performance. You can probably throw many Windows Vista champions into this category.
If efficiency isnâ€™t generally seen as important to a productâ€™s users, then we designers who do think itâ€™s important need to make our elegant and efficient products scream out to users â€œI am simple to use! And (in case you didnâ€™t know) thatâ€™s a good thing! Donâ€™t buy the competitor’s junk with all the bloated features — buy me instead and youâ€™ll be happier!â€
Thatâ€™s a designer being a marketer, or even a salesman. But in a good way.