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The Verdict

Now that we’ve discussed the evidence, let’s take a look at the suspects—the reasons why bad design succeeds.

  • Speed and bandwidth: GuiltyA lack of server support and the necessary bandwidth is what enabled MySpace to take over the market previously dominated by Friendster. You need speed to succeed.
  • Lack of good competition: GuiltyNo one has come along yet with a better design than Flickr. No one has provided the same support as MySpace with a better design. As soon as someone puts all these variables together with a good design, MySpace could see an unpleasant end to its ride.
  • Success: GuiltyWhen big companies stop innovating and start answering only to its shareholders, they lose the capability to do anything great. Amazon didn’t start out bad—it became that way when it got too big to have big ideas.

In other words, being the most successful doesn’t mean you have the best design. Often, it just means you did something else well enough that people tolerated a bad design.

Sadly, putting out inferior design helps low standards become the norm, lowering the bar for everyone else. For example, designers often leverage design patterns to make new sites more learnable and familiar. Following the lead of the most widely-known pattern implementations, such as those employed on these large sites, sometimes means poor design is perpetuated to millions of other sites.

So why can’t we blame the users? Aren’t they responsible, too? Aren’t they the ones using these sites?

We can’t blame the users. If we put out bad stuff, they’ll use it because there’s nothing better and because they don’t know things can be better.

But we know things can be better. So if we put out inferior designs, knowing all the while that they could be better, then we’re to blame. Basically, we have to put out good stuff because it’s our moral responsibility to do so. Otherwise, we completely disrespect the very same customers on which our companies’ futures depend.

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