A Lexicon of Good Design

By Mariève Bouchard, May 29th, 2019

“We need this product to be user friendly.”
“Sure, but what do you mean more specifically?”
“Well you know, it has to be intuitive!”
“Right, but what else?”

When we think of Good Design, a number of characteristics come to mind. The emergence of user experience (UX) has bred wide range of buzzwords that can contribute to confusion about user-centered design. It’s easy to get lost in the multitude of sometimes abstract terms. Are we able to grasp their true meaning and use them wisely?

As designers, it’s up to us to help the profession evolve by working to better the understanding of design and its contribution to product design. This lexicon of commonly used terms will help you understand and differentiate the various concepts.

In this lexicon, the word ‘product’ is used generically to represent a system, a platform, a technology, an object, or a service.
“Good designs are the ones that are transparent, delightful and/or helpful.“ (Jonathan Shariat & Cynthia Savard Saucier - Tragic Design, the impact of bad design and how to fix it, p.5 They should be functional and useful but also respectful in making life better. Thanks to its user-centred nature, good design is also profitable. Indeed, a product that serves its consumers well is more likely to be chosen by them.

Bad Design
A product that disrupts human behaviour and can cause damage with varying degrees of severity. Bad design can harm by causing exclusion, sadness, frustration, injury and even death.
INSERER ALT TEXT Our work is aimed at preventing Bad Design in order to focus on the attributes of Good Design:

Accessibility | Reach
The capacity of consumers to use a product.
Accessibility translates into an inclusive design that makes the product available and usable by everyone. Of course, the definition of “everyone” will depend on the nature of the product. A connected product (IOT), for example, can only focus on a user with a data connection. However, the app should be usable for users with visual disorders. Accessibility is based on the principle of taking all current and potential users into account without discrimination.

Usability | Accomplish
The potential of a product to meet user needs and expectations. Results in a product that’s relatively easy and pleasing to master, as well as being reliable and efficient.

Learnability | Understand
The quality of a product that allows users to familiarize themselves with it right from the start without any additional tools so that they’re able to make the most of all its features and capabilities. The capacity to learn over time, on the other hand, is the ability to acquire expertise in using a product through repeated interactions.

Efficiency | Accustom
Once the learning stage is over, the speed at which users are able to perform their tasks.

Memorability | Accustom
Ability to regain product use skills after a period of non-interaction.

Satisfaction | Appreciate
Quality of the product by its agreeability, its comfort and its acceptability of use.

Errors | Cope
The reliability of a product based on the number, frequency and severity of errors encountered in using it and the capacity for correcting them.

Usefulness | Propose
Providing features that users need. In principle, a product is said to be useful if it combines utility and usability.

Intuitiveness | Anticipate
Intuitiveness is being able to understand the terms and components used by the product and the predictability of the actions related to them, without needing to read instructions.

Intuitiveness is increasingly criticized by the community because, in principle, the qualifier "intuitive" refers to the intuition that concerns an individual rather than a product. Some prefer recognizability or memorability to address the user’s ability to learn and adapt rather than relying on intuition.

Discoverability | Find
Ability for a product’s elements and functionalities to be found the first time it’s used without external reference.

Ergonomics | Adapt
Science aimed at making a product easy to manipulate and easy to use. Generally speaking, ergonomics is about making work easier and ensuring safety.

Desirability | Attract
Emotional appeal that can impact the perception and the credibility of a product. An attraction based on the product’s appearance, tone, and the sensations it provides.

Viability | Make profitable
A product that can be designed within a certain budget and with a reasonable level of effort for a cost-effective solution that meets a business objective.

Feasibility | Produce
A product that can be designed with accessible technology or within realistic technical constraints using available resources inside a given time frame.

Goodwill | Do good
Product designed for the good of the user.

Empathy | Consider
Attention to others, that is to users who will use a product.Empathy is about respect, understanding and sharing the feelings, perceptions, needs and desires of users to prevent unintended consequences.
These criteria are interdependent, and we can only hope that the products around us are designed to meet them!

The following diagram organises these attributes to prioritize them in the context of product development, thus revealing Good Design’s objective.


For a product to be considered functional, the targeted user must firstly be able to use it (accessibility). The purpose of the product must then efficiently meet a need that motivates its use (usability). With one thing leading to another, the user tests the qualities of the product until a certain degree of autonomy is achieved. At this stage, the product could be considered acceptable and useful. Ultimately, when the key functionality attributes are satisfied, the product will be styled in a way that attracts the target audience (desirability). The whole sequence of considerations in the design of a product is worthless if its usability is inappropriate or misguided.

The idea is to clearly define the target and consider the high but necessary standards of a quality product. Achieving such a level of quality may seem difficult or even utopian, but an organized and user-centred process is the key to getting there.

Let’s face it, in theory these ideas can seem quite complex, but, as is often the case in design, it’s in the field that it all makes sense. To achieve Good Design, nothing is more effective than testing products under development with a diversified audience connected to the target market. An ounce of prevention is certainly worth a pound of cure.

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