Visual design is important. I’m not talking about making applications look pretty. (Which is never a bad thing.) I’m talking about how an the User Interface of an application is laid out. How the user interacts with the application. A good design will draw the user’s eye to the correct area and lead them through the application as you, the developer, intended.
You should never need to read a manual or instruction guide to use the application. A well designed application is intuitive to the user and natural to use. The user, upon first use of the application, should be able to “just know” how to use it.
Yes. I concede that if I could only choose one, it would be functionality over design. But the design is part of the functionality. How functional can your application be if your users don’t know how to user. If it frustrates them every time they use it. If it hinders their natural workflow.
The user should not have to change their habits to use your product. And really, should they? A good product should accommodate the user’s natural habits. When they use it, they should think “OMG, this makes my life so much easier.” They should want to use it. This is what makes a good application — the application works, and the users actually use it.
Image via ShutterStock