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Graphic Design Is Not a Luxury

Elizabeth Barr June 21, 2016

There are lots of features you can leave out when building your app. Graphic design isn’t one of them.

The endeavor of creating a custom app or website is a lot like buying a house: The rush of assembling a wish list of features turns sobering when faced with reality of cost. Then the once-exciting act of building a new piece of software is less about “getting it right” than it is about hewing as close to your budget as possible. So much so that every feature that isn’t absolutely essential gets moved from the “version 1” spec sheet to the “version 2” list awfully quick.

All too often that includes design.

Design, after all, when faced with the features that had be abandoned, seems like an indulgence. Colors and fonts and a new logo and parallax scrolling – wonderful things, all, if money were no object – now feel like an unwise expenditure, like ordering dessert when you’ve already had to cut out appetizers and wine.

But [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]design is more than just how a piece of software looks and feels[/inlinetweet] – though even if it did little more than draw you in and make you want to spend more time exploring the app or site, it would be marketing dollars well-spent. A beautifully designed piece of software is more than just beautiful. Design dictates how you interact with the website. It guides the user through the app logically and narratively. It anticipates their needs and reveals the information they need to find, fast, when they need to find it.

Good design differentiates a product or service. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Proper design that results in a pleasurable customer experience gives your startup or company a competitive advantage[/inlinetweet], allows you to command a premium price, gain market share, and convey authority.

We at Designli are often asked, “How necessary is design?” Clients see that line item in their estimate and want to start the cuts there. And while it’s true there are many talented developers who have design as part of their toolkit, most developers wouldn’t touch a project that doesn’t include design as the first phase. A project that hasn’t been designed hasn’t been thoroughly conceived. After all, you wouldn’t tell a builder, “You’ve got lumber and nails. What do you need blueprints for?”

At its most practical, the design phase is a great way to validate features. Having to account for their place in the UI forces the client to define the feature’s purpose. (Increase market share? Find new customers?)

We’ve seen projects go from an expansive collection of fantasy wants with a bottom line to match to a streamlined version that substitutes thoughtful UX where there was once bloat. And it wasn’t the sales reps or the account managers or devs who brought the app into focus; it was all the work of the designers.

So when it comes time to create that mobile app or redo the website, consider design the most strategic indulgence you can spend money on.

We at Designli love to toot our designers’ horns. See their work on our Behance portfolio and on Dribbble, two of our favorite places to find inspiration.

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