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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Design Matters

It's summer time again, and with summer comes a change in wardrobe. I have two pairs of shorts in my small wardrobe that are extraordinarily similar. They're just about the same color and cut, and fit very well. Where they differ is in the design of their velcro-shut pockets.

Now, I'm not talking about design in the sense of expensive clothing designers. No, no. I'm talking about their general design and the thought that went into it by whoever designed them. Let me explain, as best I can, the general design of the pockets on each of these. Lets call the first pair A and the second pair B.

Pair A was designed as a standard pocket is - a slit on the fabric with a pouch sewn in. The band of velcro is attached right at the top on the inside of the pocket. Pair B on the other hand has a flap that covers the opening of the pocket when it's closed. The soft side velcro strip is attached to the inside of the flap, while the rough side is attached to the outside of the pocket.

Both of these seem fairly straight forward and obvious. But do either of these strike you as bad designs? I can guarantee you that it isn't obvious until you've used this configuration for a little while. Think about it for a minute.

Did you figure it out? That's right! Design A is the bad design. Because the the velco is on the inside of the pocket whenever you try to pull anything out of the pocket your knuckles get scraped on the rough side of the velcro. It's not so bad the first few times but after a while it can wear your knuckles raw. With design B the only the soft side of the velcro will come in contact with your hand.

Now for the $64,000 Question: Which of these designs do you think was on the more expensive pair of shorts? Yeah, that's right. Design A, the scrape-your-knuckles-raw design was more expensive, but that's not what's important. What's important is that design matters. It matters a lot.

When you're designing something you need to really think hard and sweat the details. What you don't think is a problem could turn into real, actual, physical pain for your users.