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The cost of bad design

Pricing design is challenging because the design is subjective. Individual freelancers can charge from $5 to $10,000 for a simple logo design. Agencies charge even more.

Alex Dovhyi
Alex Dovhyi
5 min read
The cost of bad design
"We don't have a budget for that."

We've all heard this at least once in our careers. You can learn a lot about the business side of design from the articles and videos. However, when it comes to practice, pricing design is always a frustrating part of the process.

We all know that good design is expensive. But nobody talks about the cost of bad design.

First and foremost, let's understand what is good design and what is bad design.

Good design vs. Bad design

"If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design." — Dr. Ralf Speth

Pieces of feedback such as asking to "tie the design together" or "make the eye go around" (which is a really vague piece of advice) are commonly used to describe the usage of fundamental principles and elements of design to avoid information overload, tread carefully while using negative space/white space, and to follow color theory.

These are some of the superficial aspects of good design. However, when it comes to good design, it is all about how good is the understanding of what exactly the user needs. User needs and content are at the core of the good design.

Bad design, on the other side, can look and feel pretty and function on the edge of the existing technological possibilities. But it doesn't solve the user's need or solves the wrong one.

A product with good design makes users feel confident by providing all the necessary information they need to perform their actions. Good design costs a lot of money. But at the same time, it attracts your users to use your products and remain loyal to your business.

A product with a bad design stands in front of the users, not letting them complete the task or confusing them with secondary features. Bad design costs you more as you lose the trust of your user. You earn a bad reputation in the industry which can be very expensive to change.

How does bad design increase costs?

Companies are always hurrying to get their products out in the market. They think they have a brilliant idea to solve the user's problem, so they hire a designer to implement their vision.

Designers, not having the time and budgets to do the proper research, start assuming what users would want and end up creating a beautiful product that looks and feels fantastic. It's completed and ready for release.

The product shines in the beginning: the company saved money on research and testing, and the product gets more and more popular in narrow circles. It looks like a great deal when the company starts seeing the initial demand. Until people start returning or canceling the product due to usability issues or because it's not aligned with the user's needs.

Now it doesn't look like a great deal – the company realizes that the product has become more expensive than they initially thought, as now the minor research costs become a loss or a significant expense in the development.

There are multiple reasons that a product might fail.

Some companies run out of cash to cover their expenses. Others have poor marketing. But most often, it's because of the lack of product/market fit. In other words, nobody wanted the thing you built the way you built it. Or you failed to find enough people who did want it.

These days it's common for companies to adopt the startup-ish culture and "fail quick." Most think it's cheaper to have something out there fast and learn in the process instead of spending too much time and having nothing. While this might help the product get a fast start, it doesn't help create a lasting impact on users in the long run.

Steps to avoid bad design

As designers, we have ways to prevent this sort of unnecessary cost in design. There is no single set of golden rules, but there are guidelines we can use to refer back to at every step of the product development process. These guidelines can help us ensure that our designs will be cost-effective in the long term.