Skip to main content

Why small design decisions can matter

Why small design decisions can matter


A minor inconvenience can change our feelings about a device

Share this story

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

While we usually look for major features in a device — speed or sound quality or picture sharpness — sometimes it’s the little things that can make or break your experience with that device.

I realized this recently when I bought myself a pair of Jabra Elite 75t earbuds for day-to-day use. I really liked my new earbuds. But while my previous headset came with a detachable loop that you could use to attach it to a bag or a keyring or whatever, the Jabra case has no way of attaching to anything.

Now, I wasn’t about to return the earbuds because of this, but it did cause me to growl a little. In order to get that same convenient functionality I had enjoyed with my previous earbuds, I had to buy a cheap silicone cover for the case — one that came with a carabiner that I could hook onto my bag.

It also started me thinking about other easily overlooked design features that we may not even think about when we buy a device but become issues once we start using the device on a day-to-day basis. For example, about five seconds after Apple’s AirTags hit the market, it was followed by a veritable onslaught of accessories (a number of them made by Apple itself) with one purpose and one purpose only: to fix the fact that the AirTag doesn’t come with a hole so that you can attach it to anything.

A rugged AirTag case from Spigen.
A rugged AirTag case.
Image: Spigen
A case with carabiner for the Jabra Elite 75t.
A case with carabiner for the Jabra Elite 75t.
Image: Aotao

Of course, you can look at the positive viewpoint: that, as with my Jabra Elite 75t, the lack of a convenient attachment provides a lot of companies with an additional source of income. And after all, what’s another few dollars added to the cost of something as nifty as the AirTag?

That is until you consider there are design decisions out there that are just as unnecessary but convenient and are included with the device. In fact, some of these are features you may not even know were needed until you realize how useful they are.

Here’s an example: I’m one of those people who tends to have a tangle of plugged-in white and black cables in several corners of my home — tangles that I have to search every time I want to, say, use a USB-C cable for my phone or the power cable for my MacBook. Most of the time, I have to pick up one of the cables and follow it to the end to make sure it’s the one I need. However, I can find the cable for my Dell XPS 13 laptop in a couple of seconds because the end of the cable has a small LED that is always lit when the other end is plugged into power, making it really easy to find. Dell didn’t have to put that LED in there — but I’m incredibly glad it did.

There are loads of other small design pluses that are out there making life just a little bit easier for many of us, like ridges on the bottom of laptops to make it a little easier to carry the thing without dropping it (and simultaneously making it more comfortable to type on) or low-tech shutters that can block off the camera on the Echo Show 8 to provide that extra bit of privacy.

Perhaps the conclusion to be drawn from this is even the smaller design decisions that are made when creating a new tech device can affect our feeling about that product — maybe even enough so that we as consumers might take those decisions into consideration when the next model comes out.