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Strategic insights
Design Makes a Difference

Written by on September 4, 2007

Bloomberg is undoubtedly one of the biggest players in the financial industry offering a wide range of products for people in and around Wall Street. One of their products is the Bloomberg Terminal. It is a 17" dual screen setup that displays the financial information from Bloomberg Profession Services - all in one tightly packed system.

...and it looks like this:

This terminal is undoubtedly useful for the people who need this kind of data, but in these days with high-end design and rich media interfaces, the Bloomberg interface is a disaster.

When you create an interface like this one, you send out a clear message that you boring, old and lack any sense of quality or innovative spirit.

But that is not the worst part. The worst part is that an uninspiring system will reflect on the mental state of the people who work with it. This looks like an old DOS systems, something that has been obsolete for 12 years!

People are saying that the Bloomberg Terminal is great - but hideous to look at. And, if that is the sensation you give people every time they see your product, then you have failed. It is like an ugly car. It can take you to work, but you do not want people to see you driving in it.

"It's a great machine, in that it has information you can't get elsewhere, but it hasn't improved its interface in the past five years," says a private equity associate in Chicago who regularly uses a terminal to check interest rates and historical prices. "It's hideous."

- source: Portfolio.com

Design is extremely important. It is the tool you use to energise, inspire, empower, and encourage your employees to do better. A good working environment can transform a workplace.

But remember, I am not talking about design as art or as graphic design. This is a productivity application, and as such, it has to work efficiently. It should never be fancy - but it must have a modern and effective design. The design must make you happy, but it must also help you to work faster and better.

The redesigned Bloomberg Terminal

Last month, Portfolio.com asked three top design companies to redesign the Bloomberg experience. These companies were the well renowned IDEO, thehappycorp, and Ziba - and this is what they came up with:

Note: See high-res images and an interactive presentation over at Portfolio.com

IDEO:

Thehappycorp:

Ziba:

I do not like thehappycorp's and Ziba's design.

Thehappycorp's concept is over-designed. It is fancy instead of efficient. Sure it looks pretty, but all those design elements gets in the way of digesting information fast. And the remote + a golf game as part the interface? - that is just another proof that they have no sense of reality.

Sure I will give them 10 point for innovative thinking, but also -200 for not being able to work efficiently.

Ziba's design is even worse. It is clearly made by a graphic designer. It has extremely low contrast, terrible waste of screen space and useless interface elements. This is fancy design without substance. It doesn't work.

But, I really like the IDEO design. It is beautiful. It has an immense amount of information, designed in a way so that it isn't cluttered to look at. More importantly the information is all about work.

The best thing, I think, is that you do not have to navigate to see the information you need. It is all there instantly available. Not like the Ziba or thehappycorp interfaces where you constantly have to move around and click on varies elements to get the information you need.

This is what modern user experience is all about:

  • Never create old and ugly interfaces - it hurts your company more than you can ever imagine.
  • Never over-design and create flashy interfaces - it completely kills your productivity and moves focus from doing meaningful things to looking at irrelevant design effects.
  • Do create beautiful interaction focused on getting things done well - it will empower you employees to do the same.

(Tip: Adam from Supersonic Feet / via: PortFolio.com)

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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