Written on the 25th of February 2024.

Designs need to respect its users

When I look around the web I often, if not nearly always, come across designs that do not respect the user. What I mean by that is, they present themselves differently from the goals that the application has and hide away their motive from the user. And in some occasions, remove utility from the user in favour of a streamlined process that does not inform the user well and requests more from the user than initially expected. Neither does it seem that the application facilitates ease of use for users who require more accommodation than others. This dishonesty and hostility in the interactions that a user has with the content create an unfair relationship and take autonomy away in favour of value for those who build and control the application. Users are then left confused and frustrated because they are unable to achieve their goal.

In contrast, I have always preferred the principles of form follows function and truth to material, well known in modern architecture, which can be prominently seen in Functionalism, Bauhaus, and Brutalist designs. Form follows function refers to the idea that the purpose of an object should be the starting point of the design. In other words, the designer starts with what the use cases will be, not what has come before it, and implements the required functions inside of this predetermined form. Truth to materials is about using materials where appropriate and not hiding the materials away by covering them up with another material; instead, showing the innate quality of the materials used. In other words, where timber is used, the wood is shown; concrete is exposed and not panelled or painted over, often leaving the texture from the wood used to pour the concrete still visible. Also, the usage and aging of the material are not covered or hidden at a later moment; instead, the patina on copper is left as it develops.

I like these principles because they request honesty from the object and allow the observer to determine what the goals of the design were, making experiencing and interacting with it easier. In particular terms, it helps the user reason about the object and infer information that would otherwise need to be communicated in another manner. Meaning the object explains itself through its design without misleading someone. And I want to explore what these ideas mean when applied to the things I encounter and develop in my daily life.


What to strive for

First, I want to pin down what is important to strive for in order to create a design that respects the user. To ensure this respect is developed, I have identified the following key tenets:

With these principles, I believe a good foundation can be built. Let us delve into what each idea means and examine some practical aspects of each so that these ideas can be put into practice.



These days, everyone is bombarded with information, making readability more crucial than ever. Whether users are browsing a website, reading an article, or interacting with an application, the ability to easily consume and understand content is paramount to their overall experience. Readability plays a fundamental role in facilitating effective communication between the creator and the consumer of content. It encompasses various design elements that impact how text is perceived and processed by users, ultimately influencing their comprehension, engagement, and satisfaction.

Readability has a massive impact on user engagement and retention. When content is presented in a clear and accessible manner, users are more likely to stay engaged and absorb the information being conveyed. On the other hand, poor readability can lead to frustration, confusion, and ultimately, abandonment of the content or application. Furthermore, in an era where attention spans are limited, readability serves as a powerful tool for capturing and retaining users' attention. By making content easy to scan and digest, designers can effectively communicate key messages and facilitate decision-making processes.

A design that prioritises readability makes an effort for users so they can absorb information without putting unnecessary strain on them. Users should not have to put in tremendous effort to understand your design if it can be made easier for them to consume. Important aspects of readability include:

By prioritising readability in design, respect is demonstrated for the user's time and cognition, making it easier for them to engage with the content and systems in order to achieve their goals effectively.



In the realm of design, usability stands as a cornerstone principle that shapes the user experience and determines the success of a product or interface. At its core, usability revolves around the seamless interaction between humans and technology, with a focus on making systems intuitive and user-friendly. However, beyond its surface-level definition lies a deeper significance, one that speaks to the fundamental respect owed to users in the digital landscape. Usability transcends mere functionality; it embodies a commitment to clarity, transparency, and empowerment. When speaking of usability in the context of respecting the user, the agency of the users should be acknowledged in our designs. It is not enough for a product to merely fulfil the intended purpose; it must do so in a manner that honours the user's autonomy and facilitates their interactions with clarity and ease.

In a world inundated with complex systems, users benefit from coherency and reliability in their interactions. A design that prioritises usability recognises these needs and strives to meet them with unwavering dedication. By ensuring that possible actions are clearly presented and easily taken, users are empowered to navigate our designs with confidence and efficiency. Barriers to understanding are eliminated, empowering users to make informed decisions that align with their goals. In doing so, satisfaction and confidence are fostered among the audience. Key principles of usability include:

By ensuring the usability of the design, a user can start to build up confidence and trust that their goals will be met when interacting with the object.



Accessibility in design is paramount to ensuring that every individual, regardless of their abilities or limitations, can fully participate in and benefit from the world around them. It is about embracing inclusivity and empathy to create a more equitable environment for all. When talking about accessibility, the diverse range of needs users might have needs to be addressed.

This includes, but is not limited to: those with visual impairments who may rely on screen readers or alternative text to navigate and understand content; it encompasses individuals with motor disabilities who may require keyboard shortcuts or voice commands to interact with interfaces effectively, and it includes those with cognitive disabilities such as dyslexia or sensitivity to overstimulation. Cognitive impairments are already addressed by the previously mentioned points, but you can still go above and beyond that and help with more issues users can come across.

Another often overlooked group is those who do not have a disability, but have access to limited resources. For instance, those with limited access to the internet or devices that are not as performant as the ones you might be used to.

By prioritising accessibility in design, it acknowledges that users are diverse and face differing barriers that need to be addressed to ensure people from all walks of life can access and engage with the content. This not only benefits individuals with disabilities but also improves the overall user experience for everyone. For instance, captions and transcripts not only aid users with hearing impairments but also benefit users in noisy environments or those who prefer to consume content silently.

Ultimately, accessibility is about promoting inclusivity and ensuring that no one is left behind in the digital landscape. It's about recognising the inherent value of every individual and designing with empathy and consideration for their unique needs and perspectives. In embracing accessibility, we not only create better experiences but also contribute to a more equitable and inclusive online community.


Following the tenets

When constructing this blog and focusing on its simple design, I endeavoured to adhere to the key tenets as closely as possible. This is a relatively small project, so not all tenets result in significant changes, but I still enjoyed contemplating how to optimise this website. For example, the site does not necessitate scripting to function; after all, its contents primarily consist of simple pages containing mostly text. Nonetheless, I believe it's important to ensure that users who do not prefer motion aren't subjected to a jarring scrolling animation, and so forth.

However, this doesn't imply that ornamentation must be entirely avoided, leaving the user with nothing but a blank page with some content. Decorative elements can serve a purpose as well but should not detrimentally impact the user's experience. What is essential is that the foundation of a design considers these points and builds upon them. This way, when working with the limited resources available, at least the fundamentals are being met, and users can utilise and trust the system while feeling respected. Through this respect for the user, a more harmonious and meaningful relationship between the technology and its users can be established.


Further reading