Look and feel. What does that tell you? Let me help you with the phrase, wikipedia says.
Look and feel is a term used in descriptions of products and fields such as marketing, branding and trademarking, to signify the experience a person has using a product, and the main features of its appearance and interfaces.
In software design, look and feel is used in respect of a graphical user interface and comprises aspects of its design, including elements such as colors, shapes, layout, and typefaces (the “look”), as well as the behavior of dynamic elements such as buttons, boxes, and menus (the “feel”). The term look and feel is used in reference to both software and websites.
I was happy when I saw companies focusing on the look and feel aspect of a web site. Unfortunately it was short-lived when I realized that they thought look and feel is what there is to design. Not that focusing on look and feel is wrong, but not focusing on usability, accessibility, performance and most importantly the design, is bad. It hurts the users, your website and ultimately you pretty badly.
One should strive for a good user experience, of which look and feel is an important part, but is also affected by other factors, like speed, performance, compatibility, usability or accessibility. And you cannot build all these together without the system design. What is design? I think Steve Jobs explains this the best.
”Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like,” says Steve Jobs, Apple’s C.E.O. ”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.”
Look at it this way. Look and feel is one layer, the topmost one, of the entire design stack. Not thinking about the system underneath is not going to help you get any good out of it.
I hope companies realize that soon. The ones that do not, go into my own little Look and Feel club. Mind you, it is not a blacklist, it helps me prepare better and realize that these companies need more education.