In today’s tech-driven world, design is no longer just a visual element. It’s a powerful force that can make or break a company. Look at the iPhone’s fusion of artistry and innovation or Elon Musk’s visionary ideas in electric cars. Both are testaments to the significance of design.
But what happens when design is overlooked?
Let’s explore the real-world implications of design neglect, where one company’s flawed design decisions reveal a harsh truth: bad design can be the silent killer of companies.
A few years ago, my company selected a prominent HR software provider, a name synonymous with NBA jerseys and women’s soccer. On the surface, they seemed poised for success, having recently merged two major companies and with plans for product enhancement and cross-selling.
However, the problem lay in their design philosophy.
Instead of crafting a thoughtful design, they opted to amalgamate the “best of” their two existing apps. This decision proved disastrous for this type of software. It was akin to forcibly marrying two mismatched puzzle pieces, resulting in a disjointed and ill-fitting solution.
The repercussions of this design choice were profound:
- Administrative Hassles: Managing two separate systems required administrators to learn and use both, introducing complexity and challenges during implementations.
- Duplication of Infrastructure: Each system had its distinct code base, leading to the replication of reporting tools and APIs. This substantially increased the workload for users attempting to learn and implement them.
- Support Challenges: Support personnel were restricted to working on one system, often leaving clients more knowledgeable than their own support staff. Resolving issues frequently necessitated the involvement of multiple personnel, resulting in extended response times.
- Data Synchronization Problems: Data needed to flow between these systems, but there was no seamless way to synchronize it. The absence of synchronization led to a cascade of downstream issues.
Within the software company, problems escalated. Protracted support queues, lingering software glitches, and a revolving door of employees became the norm.
Despite its subpar design, the company won’t vanish overnight due to legacy clients and the complexities of transitioning HR systems. Nonetheless, I foresee a gradual exodus of clients as competitors with superior design or fresh alternatives gain momentum. Someday, they’ll reflect on their downward spiral and wonder where they went astray.
The answer will be glaringly evident: they fell victim to bad design.
This real-world example underscores the profound impact of design on a company’s destiny. It is a stark reminder that design isn’t confined to aesthetics alone; it profoundly influences functionality, efficiency, and user experience. Businesses that disregard structure do so at their peril, often succumbing to a gradual decline driven by poor decisions.