Can Good Design Be Ugly?

October 31, 2014 • Design • Views: 5108

The It ain’t a pretty sight (pun intended).

The Drudge Report is an American news aggregation website. Run by Matt Drudge with the help of Joseph Curl and Charles Hurt, the site consists mainly of links to stories from the United States and international mainstream media about politics, entertainment, and current events as well as links to many columnists.

It is raw, it’s plain, it’s hand written HTML and barely changed since 1997. But it does work and is very usable.

Many people assume that something needs to be beautiful in order to be considered “Well-designed”, but I disagree: the two are not mutually exclusive. There are many different types of design out there and this is a great example of the true difference is between visual design and functional design. Functional Design is not about how something makes us feel, it is about how effectively we are able to use it for a given function. The interesting thing about Drudge is that it scores highly on various measures of usability, but also leaves the user with a semi-good experience… which begs the next question: Although a design can be aesthetically ugly yet highly usable, to what extent should it still provide the user with a good experience?

Would Drudge be an even better experience if it was also beautifully designed? I say yes, properly applied visual design can help accentuate an interface and tap into the emotional side of user experience. I don’t think Drudge necessarily needs visual design as in this case: Content is King and the content is more important that the visual display of it. It would just be a nice to have, to give it that extra deliciously beautiful depth. Imagine a website as a plate of pasta. (Yes…. I am hungry) Its a perfectly edible plate of pasta with the appropriate colognes sauce to go with it. Why say no to that extra parmesan topping on a perfectly well-made spaghetti Bolognese? You don’t need it, but it would make the experience so much more delightfully pleasant.

In conclusion: Drudge is very well designed from usability standpoint. The functional design is great. But Drudge: it’s not you. It’s me. I like visually appealing websites, and although you work perfectly fine the way you are, I want visual design applied.

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