Talented designers flocked to the web when it started taking over the world in the 90s. Innovation boomed while migrating from paper to pixels.

This significant move is still relevant today when designing for resilience.  This carefully orchestrated design move isn’t just about helping people prepare for disasters; it’s about shifting a designer’s cultural mindset to reflect the ways users think about business strategy and collaboration.

Resilient design is not limited to those designing major infrastructure. It relates to a shift in culture that applies these concepts across the spectrum of design areas while factoring in everything from seemingly minor product-level decisions to significant policies and systems on a societal level.

With design trends changing like seasons, it’s important to consider practical and evergreen creations (even if minor tweaks are required). Although Apple launches niche product models every year, recall the core of what keeps their products relevant – usability, design, simplicity, flexibility, and resilience.

Many factors influence resilient design aspects, but the significant ones are demonstrated in the image below.

Leveraging the Power of Prototyping in UX
Image Source: noti.st 

The Impact of a Resilient Design on Businesses

In the world of web design, designers are preoccupied with the here and now. Thinking beyond the present moment is reserved for contemplating the future—imagining the devices, features, and interfaces that don’t yet exist.

In such a situation, businesses understand the risk of placing their bet on a bad UX design. On the other hand, robust design can be at the heart of both disruptive and sustained commercial success in physical, digital, and service settings.

Brilliant and resilient designs such as the Google Home Page or the Swiss Army Knife logo set the perfect example of lasting impact.

Compelling designs stand out from the crowd given the rapid change in consumer expectations driven by exemplary brands like Amazon.

Resilient designs blur the lines between hardware, software, and services and stand the test of time in business.

McKinsey recently evaluated 300 publicly listed companies’ design practices over five years in multiple countries and industries. They collected more than two million records of financial data and recorded 100,000+ design actions.

Four themes of good design form the basis of the McKinsey Design Index (MDI), which rates companies by how resilient their designs are and how it links up with each company’s financial performance.

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Image Source: Mckinsey 

The business value of design resilience is directly proportional to the revenue growth it brings and, to some extent, its impact on business continuity. Thus the four significant areas of a resilient design affecting business outcomes are shown below.

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Business leaders further responded to the McKinsey poll and delved deeper into aspects impacting these 4 key areas of a resilient design.

What Makes for a Resilient Design?

Since resilience is more of a quality than a requirement, a few features and design patterns contribute to UX design resilience.

Resilience to Use

Any digital or physical product needs to withstand use and changes that drive its usefulness. Anything that doesn’t withstand heavy use, misuse, or even occasional carelessness ultimately adds to a design’s burden.

Thus any resilient design should be characterized by,

  • Durability – This includes long-lasting and robust materials, construction, or code that naturally contributes to resilience.
  • Repairability – Durability becomes less concerning when a loss of quality can be replaced. For example, restarting your phone might fix a persistent software issue. Similarly, a small tweak in design would enhance its performance.
  • Improvement through use – Only a non-fragile design can get better with increased usage. Even a design that can be improved can add a burden to its user experience. The ultimate form of resilience in design is for a product to get better with use. This will obtain user feedback while familiarizing the user with the design and checking all the boxes for a seamless user experience. The more a user gets used to design, the more the design is appreciated.

Resilient designs can be appreciated based on how well the product handles imperfection. Imperfection stands out in a perfectly smooth area. Organic shapes, textures, and naturally imperfect designs often make added imperfections look better, a form of resilience to use.

Timeless Form and Function

As trends change, so should a design’s ability to withstand that change. Any change that makes the design lose its value over time diminishes its resilience.

For most software products, like Apple’s, a platform standard is defined by the Human Interface Guidelines, for example.

Software products stay in vogue by using established and sustained patterns. In some cases, following platform standards can automatically help in the product evolution process and automatically adapt to new trends and updates to the platform.

Using Proven Technology

Sometimes, a design must pass the test of time to prove its resilience. PDF, for example, is as resilient as ever, despite lacking many features compared to web browsers. The program serves its purpose with simple features and has not accommodated drastic changes, like web browsers.

Reliability is critical and leads to the long-term use of a design. Testing a design through sustained use over time by a big group of actual users is crucial to its resilience.


Adhering to a set of standards, especially an open one, simplifies designs and promotes resilience. Readily available tools and knowledgebase/literature make designs that meet standards more workable in a standard environment.

Standardized designs can also enable products to adapt and have their functionality extended beyond the original purpose.

An example is how a standard design for a bright user interface can turn dark at night on your iPhone and Android phones.

The Fundamental Quality

There is always a fundamental, underlying quality that determines how good it is at doing its job for many design categories. These are qualities that genuinely benefit all forms of use of resilient design. These tend to reveal the level of dedication and craftsmanship of its designers and engineers.

This fundamental quality makes the design more purposeful while revolving around that universal purpose that is genuinely beneficial to all forms of use. So, if a design needs to be simple, it has to revolve around simplicity.

If it needs to be more intuitive, the fundamental quality governing the design would be intuitiveness.


Universality is the primary design principle that impacts a product’s (web/mobile) usefulness and growth.

As suggested by Time Berners-Lee, a design that is usable by people with disabilities and others is a benefactor of resilience.

The design must serve any form of information, be it a document or a point of data, and any quality information. And it should support any hardware for stationary or mobile, and screens small or large.

Techniques that Contribute to a Resilient Design

In his book Responsive Web Design, Ethan Marcotte focused on three primary methods for resilient design.

Fluid grids – The option to use percentages instead of pixels has been fundamental since TABLE layouts.

Flexible images- Research carried out by Richard Rutter demonstrated that browsers were becoming increasingly adaptable to varying image sizes and automatically resized them. Thus, the innate dimensions of an image were never a limiting factor again.

Media queries- The error‐handling model of CSS lets browsers add multiple features over time. One of those included CSS media queries that drive the ability to define styles based on specific parameters, such as the browser window dimensions.

Here are some Key Takeaways that will help you Shape a Design Resilience:

  • Breaking away from fragile design requires a shift in your thought process. It means considering less-than-optimal scenarios and putting in the effort to address them.
  • The chances of failure increase when growing businesses work to align design, systems, and strategies to eliminate (or acquire) competition and centralize their offerings based on a specific market.
  • Making a design work across multiple devices and operable in different environments and situations makes it genuinely resilient.
  • Resilient design is present-focused while being considerate towards future changes.
  • UX designers can create a design more resilient by factoring in the blind spots and dramatically widening their design process to account for the unhappy paths.
  • Resilient designs can help products successfully operate outside of the best-case scenario (in their “happy path”) and under a broader set of scenarios to make products more robust and valuable.

Want to know how to make your UX designs more resilient, robust, and responsive? The design team at Radiant Digital can help evaluate your designs and add clarity to your design strategy. 

Connect us today to learn more.