Design vs. Development: The Difference Could Cost You Customers

October 22 2015

‚ÄčI have been through many Facebook overhauls, so I barely flinched when my most used app had a big update promising a fresh, new look. 

It has a fresh, new look, but looks aren't everything. With it came new menu and navigation, and they aren't working properly.  

I emailed my concerns, they politely replied it would have to wait for the next app update. 

The buttons used to work! Can't they just move the button or change the path thingamajig?! Isn't there some snippet of code they can cut and paste to make it work? 

Well, no. Not really. 

See, there are two parts to an app or website or software: what the user sees and does, and what goes on behind the scenes. 

Compare an app (or website or software) to a car. The driver is concerned with how the car looks and how well it does what he wants it to do. "Push pedal, go faster."  

The manufacturer and mechanic, however, are focused on what really makes the car work and work well: internal structure and all the little parts functioning together. "Scale down roter by 2.3 mm, increase friction by .5% for a 3% decrease for pedal pressure." 

Drivers may be frustrated with a blind spot and say, "Why can't they just make the window bigger?" Because making the window bigger requires everything around it to be adjusted, which causes everything around that to be adjusted, and so on. It would take a complete redesign of the door and maybe the car to change the size of the window by an inch.  

Similarly, there is a major difference between what users do with a website/software/app and what the developer has created it to do. There are some things you can change without issue, like font, color, hover text. But some changes require everything around it to be adjusted, which causes everything around that to be adjusted, and so on. 

So, no, the people in charge of my beloved app can't just move the button or make it do something else. It may, in fact, be such a big deal that it will require a complete reconfiguration of the mechanics. 

In the meantime, my loyalty is eroding. I find myself using the app less. I have started looking for one I like better, or at least one that functions the way I need it to in a user-friendly manner.

If your app/site has only visual merit, a designer may be able to help you find a template to get the look you want. But if there is any user interface (read: clicking), you need a developer to create a solid structure they can easily update.

The initial cost may seem steep, but winning and keeping customers has a high return on investment. Pretty graphics may be able to get users, but the more frustrated and confused they are, the more likely they are to leave. A shiny car means nothing to someone who needs to travel, and a shiny website means nothing to a user who can't get where they want to go.