Have you ever gone to a restaurant expecting big things? You’d walked by a million times and liked each and every new dish posted on Instagram. Rough-hewn walnut floors. Colorful entrées that seem to sing in their variety. Breathtaking.
Then you get there. And — it takes 20 minutes to be seated. Not that there was a wait. The host was simply nowhere to be found. You order, and the first bites are…mediocre. Sure, they were plated nicely, but that’s about it. All-in-all the experience was lackluster, and chances are you won’t be going back.
So, what does a bait-and-switch restaurant experience have to do with functional design? A lot.
The above restaurant example illustrates the perils of putting flashy work over functional design that prioritizes user experience. The MentorMate design team doesn’t have an “official motto,” but this comes close: Each and every designer is driven to build products — websites, platforms, apps — that add true business value. They believe tech should be simple, clean and beautiful as a result of the functionality — not in place of it.
The MentorMate design team led by Annika Seaberg focuses on capturing two things in all work: Ease of use and design functionality.
Here’s how they do it.
1. Think about the end-user, first.
Today’s design, especially on mobile, should work in tandem with established use patterns. As an example, when users are ready to select a date, they expect to see certain things. The MentorMate team anticipates these intuitive-use patterns to satisfy user assumptions not challenge them. People have short attention spans. They won’t adopt new tech unless it requires minimal effort.
2. Ask questions to create a system of design checks and balances.
Using questions as a system of checks and balances is the best way to validate the design and ensure the experience remains functional. First ask, “is the design appropriate for the platform? Then, if the design does deviate from established use patterns, is there good reason?” Let these questions guide the iterative or revision process.
3. Don’t jump straight to designing on the computer.
Start with pen and paper. Let yourself think beyond keystrokes and mouse tracking. Work through the user experience on a sketchpad or even with prose written on sticky notes. That way, it’s easier to wear a functional hat first. All the temptations of typography and color are removed. By simplifying the process, it’s easier to table the look and feel of the tech thereby concentrating on the business and consumer needs first.
Hooking a client’s attention with flashy design may seem smart. But if the functionality doesn’t meet user expectations and established platform patterns, the design served as a much larger disservice. The smart thing to do then? Iterate and relaunch.
Back to the restaurant. Top chefs and their establishments focus on craft. So does MentorMate. By hiring teams with combined UI/UX experience, functional design is at the fore of every project.