Is design just a commodity in today's digital world?

Facebook's website is not a brilliant or beautiful design. Ditto with Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Amazon or any other leading digital business today.

Controversial headline aside, it's becoming increasingly apparent that in the world of digital customer experience, traditional design has become commoditised.



In days gone by, in the print world, design needed to capture the attention quickly, draw the readers interest, and communicate a proposition virtually instantly.

To some extent the same still applies in digital - display advertising is a good example of this. But what's changed is that, like hardware devices, digital design has commoditised to the extent that as users, we now find it quicker and easier to interact with generic design experiences than unique ones.

To a large extent this is a natural symptom of the design process in a competitive market. Nearly every car has four wheels. The three wheeled cars weren't so good on the corners. Competitor A looks at the latest design iteration of competitor B, steals the best bits, and launches their latest iteration.

This is particularly evident in the world of mobile devices.

Hardware keyboards are virtually non existent, competitors device form factors are virtually indistinguishable, and even design leaders like Apple are forced to submit to the process and launch products that they previously dismissed, and standardise products that they had previously redesigned in "the Apple way". Anyone old enough to remember Apple's round mouse, or round headphones will know what I'm talking about.

In the digital world, what's important is not design per-se, but experience.

Facebook's website is not a brilliant or beautiful design. Ditto with Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Amazon or any other leading digital business today.

But what these businesses do very well is understand the value of their service to you, as a consumer, in the context of your digital eco-system, and work relentlessly to deliver the best possible experience in that niche.

Designers today have access to digital resources that make it incredibly easy to create beautiful and effective designs. Many of the Wordpress templates, and design assets available on Tumblr and Pinterest are actually really beautiful designs created by professional designers. Drop in your own content and you're away.

Is this a bad thing?

Yes and no. Personally, I love design and appreciate the beauty of well proportioned typography, effective use of colour, compelling copy, and striking layout. Seeing the same templated parallax website can get dull.

But probably what's more important to me is the utility of being able to see when my next bus departs at my preferred stop, see pics of my friends holidays, order my coffee at the airport with my airline checkin App, and using Apps like Bands in Town that scan my music collection and recommend events coming up near me.

While the race to differentiate businesses by customer experience has created some design uniformities, there's still plenty of potential to differentiate your customers digital experience.



Successful businesses today understand the role their proposition plays in their customers digital lifestyle, and design intuitive, engaging and personalised experiences around exactly that.