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Does Great Design Have to be “Cool”?

By Jen Couchoud on March 26, 2013

When I decided to buy a minivan, telling my other mom friends resulted in a lot of “I’d rather die than buy a minivan” comments. That’s kind of a shame, because when you get right down to it, the minivan is possibly the most practical vehicle a family can own. It’s designed for easy access to the interior for small kids (a remote push-button sliding door on both sides), has removable or stow-able seats for more cargo room, drives like a car, but you can fit the whole family (plus grandparents!) in it. From a user experience perspective it gets an A+ in my book…so why the mom-hate? Feels like it basically boils down to the (tired) cliché that a mini van is simply NOT cool.

Minivan transforms into a robot

Jen Couchoud: Mombot. Who’s not cool?

If something is too “uncool” to use, can it still be considered an example of great user design (related see: bluetooth headsets)?

On the other side of that argument – look at Basecamp. Basecamp is a great looking web application, and often one of the first things someone will mention when you ask him/her to recommend project management software. But, in my opinion, it’s missing a lot of functionality and workflow that would make it a more useful application for project management. Its street cred and sleek design seem to help it overcome what, in reality, it lacks in functionality and practicality.

Have you come across other examples where coolness overcomes shortcomings in functional design? Or conversely, where lack of “coolness” renders an awesome user experience moot?