Seth Godin proposes that “great design = getting people to do what you want.” Good designs get people to do what you want, while great designs get people to ask you to do it on their behalf.
Good designs are delightful. They encourage people to engage.
Great designs get out of the way. They are transparent, effortless and invisible to the user. They enable people to reap the rewards without any effort.The Columbia Record Club figured this out decades ago. Customers received new music (and a bill) every month without taking any action. The service was designed well and they reaped the rewards (I think I singlehandedly made their numbers for them in the early 90s).
Online services (SaaS platforms) have adopted this model today. They automatically bill your credit card until you cancel. It’s an effortless transaction. You have asked them to do what they want you to do (buy their service every month).
Dropbox synchronizes files without any deliberate action. Fitbit devices track activity without any manual input. Sanebox filters mail as soon as it hits your inbox. These products fade into the background. They don’t ask you to do anything special. They work on your behalf.
Great products revolve around the user–they don’t demand that the user revolve around them. They blend into life. They add value without any effort.
Good designers can easily answer the question, “What do you want the user to do?” Great designers can easily answer the question, “What do I want to do on behalf of the user?”