There’s a perennial debate about how design and usability can co-exist.
The theory is that design is all about making things pretty, usability is all about making things usable and that the two are inherently at odds with each other.
Now, some people try and cop out of the debate by arguing for co-operation and peaceful co-existence and getting the best of both worlds.
“Can’t we all just get along?”
Well, obviously, that’s the ideal situation, and is mostly achievable if you have mature, sensible people working on a project. But sometimes (even with mature, sensible people) there’s a disagreement that needs resolving and you have to take sides.
I’m here to tell you that you should always, always side with usability. Why? Because if your site is not usable you may as well pack up and go home, because it’s going to be game over. Now, designers will argue the toss, and whinge that since the web has been going for a while now that users have learnt how to use websites and don’t need hand-holding, etc. Don’t listen to them. These are the voices of the Dark Side trying to sabotage your business and glorify their own design-ego.
You only have to have read a comedy email about real-life questions to PC helplines to know that there are large chunks of the population who barely know how to use Word. Assume users know nothing. Your business will live longer that way.