Ugly Car

Porsche Versus Pinto: Why Design Matters

I was recently speaking to a VC who was poo-pooing the importance of design in web products.  “If it works well, who cares about the design?” he argued.

It’s a challenge for some folks to get their head around why design matters with startups.  The irony is that the same folks that claim to not get it cringe when they see dated or ugly websites.  The importance of design is something intuitive to nearly every consumer, but until you’re in the hot seat of developing a product you might be burying those knee-jerk reactions about design to the subconscious.

In the course of this debate I had a realization: the investor wasn’t thinking about design the right way because he was looking through the lens of an investor, not a consumer.  So I used an example of a product that he doesn’t invest in, one that he only consumes: cars.

My question to the investor was simple.  “Would you pay more for a Porsche than a Pinto?”

“Of course.”

“Well, both cars drive the maximum speed limit, have AC, hold 4 passengers and probably guzzle gas equally…so why is the Porsche worth more?”

“It’s just cooler.  I like cool things.”


Cool matters.  Consumers purchasing behavior is affected by the cool-factor.

There’s no great revelation in that statement, but it’s important to take the blinders off and remember that consumers look at websites the same was as they look at cars.  The cooler they are, the more they’re likely to win.


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