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Beautifully ugly design

People think it's this veneer - that the designers are handed this box and told, 'Make it look good!' That's not what we think design is. It's not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. - Steve Jobs

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks researching user experience, information architecture, and design.

I manage a website at work that creates career tutorials using social media like ebooks, discussion forums and podcasts, and the amount of information we now have has grown tremendously over the last two years. I’ve been concerned that as the amount of stuff we have grows, it becomes increasingly harder for people to find the things they’re looking for.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve created countless mockups and designs. Nothing seemed to solve my design problem: How do you help busy people find information they need simply and quickly.

I also started using Instapaper this week, and it led to an epiphany.

The Beauty of Ugly Design

Good design is as little design as possible. - Dieter Rams

This is what the landing page for Instapaper looks like:

It’s utilitarian. It’s spartan. It’s bland. And because of that, it’s amazingly beautiful.

The ugliness of Instapaper is what makes it so usable. There’s no veneer, no overly-glossy sheen. And for everyday use, that’s exactly what I need!

I’m still working through it, but my new layout may look something like one of these:

For comparison, here’s the current layout:

What do you think? Before or after (or neither)?