The Design Hierarchy of Needs takes inspiration from Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which reminds us that we should focus on the basics before diving into the fancy stuff. 

In design terms, it means that functionality should come before aesthetics. But is this idea still relevant in today's design world? Let's ponder over it and see if this hierarchy is still relevant!

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is the brainchild of Abraham Maslow, a psychologist who had some interesting thoughts on human motivation and psychology. 

His theory suggests that our needs can be organized in a pyramid-shaped structure, with basic physical needs forming the foundation and higher-level psychological needs at the top.

Design Hierarchy of Needs

Physiological Needs: These are the most basic needs necessary for survival, such as food, water, shelter, sleep, and breathing.

Safety Needs: Once the physiological needs are met, individuals seek safety and security. This includes personal safety, financial stability, a stable environment, and protection from harm.

Love and Belonging Needs: After safety needs are fulfilled, people desire social connections, love, friendship, and a sense of belonging within relationships, families, and communities.

Esteem Needs: Once the lower-level needs are satisfied, individuals seek self-esteem and recognition. This includes feelings of accomplishment, prestige, respect from others, and a positive self-image.

Self-Actualization Needs: At the top of the hierarchy, self-actualization represents the fulfillment of one's potential and the desire to become the best version of oneself. It involves personal growth, achieving goals, and reaching one's full potential.

According to Maslow, we need to satisfy the lower-level needs before we can move up and pursue the higher-level ones. It's like a journey of personal growth and self-fulfillment, where each level serves as a stepping stone to the next.

Lidwell’s Design Hierarchy of Needs

Next, let's dive into Lidwell's Design Hierarchy of Needs. This concept was introduced by William Lidwell in his book 'Universal Principles of Design' back in 2003.

Lidwell adapted Maslow's theory to the design world, coming up with a hierarchy that goes like this: functionality, reliability, usability, proficiency, and creativity.

While the design hierarchy of needs was originally intended for designers, it can also actually provide valuable guidance for product owners when developing the overall products.

Design Hierarchy ofNeeds


Functionality is the cornerstone of any design. Without it, the entire product experience crumbles. Take, for example, the case of Gojek. 

When Gojek was initially launched, its primary functionality was to allow users to book an ojek (motorcycle taxi) through the mobile app. If the app fails to perform this basic function, all the other features and elements within the product become meaningless.


Once functionality is in place, the next step is reliability. Your design should offer stable and consistent performance. It's not just about making it work once, but making it work from time to time.

Reliability builds trust and confidence in users, as they can rely on the design to perform consistently.


Usability is the next step after establishing functionality and reliability. Now that your design works consistently, the question is: Can people easily figure out how to use it?

Usability focuses on creating a design that is user-friendly and easy to navigate. It involves providing clear instructions, intuitive interfaces, and seamless interactions. 

Think of it this way: Imagine you're using the Gojek app. The app presents a straightforward layout with clear labels, making it easy to understand how to book a ride or access other features. 


Now we've reached the proficiency stage of the hierarchy. This is where your design goes from good to great, going beyond the basic functionality. Here, you optimize, refine, and push the boundaries of what your product can do to make it stand out from  the competitors.

For instance, Gojek's basic functionality is to find an ojek. After that basic feature has been achieved, it provides other features, such as  implementing real-time GPS tracking, allowing users to track their assigned driver's location, and introducing a chat feature for easier communication between customers and the driver.


At the pinnacle of the hierarchy is creativity. This step adds a touch of innovation and uniqueness to the design. Going beyond functional aspects, creativity aims to inspire and engage users on a deeper level, creating memorable and delightful experiences.

Gojek expanded its services to cater to users' needs, such as introducing "GoPoints," a loyalty program that rewards users for transactions. This gamified element adds surprise and fosters loyalty. Additionally, Go Transit allows users in Jakarta to check routes, schedules, and book public transportation tickets, catering to those who rely on public transportation.

Aside from innovative features, Gojek has also undergone a refreshing visual transformation. The updated logo and visual elements reflect the brand's evolution and commitment to staying relevant. 

Is the Design Hierarchy of Needs Still Relevant?

Just like how some people don't agree with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, there are also those who question the Design Hierarchy of Needs.  

For example, nowadays there is a growing emphasis on aesthetics over functionality. Thus it raises the question of whether all needs must be fully met at each level before progressing to higher levels.

But here's the thing: There's no magic or one-size-fits-all formula for making the perfect product or design. The Design Hierarchy of Needs can definitely serve as a helpful guide or a framework to inform your design decisions. But, again, it is not an absolute law. 

Remember, what really matters is whether your design works. So use the hierarchy as a starting point and then figure out what your specific goals and audience preferences are. Maybe sometimes a beautifully designed website with a few small flaws can be more appealing than a boring but flawless one.

In the end, it's all about finding the right balance and making sure your design meets its purpose while also capturing the hearts of your users. So go ahead, have fun with your design journey, and create something amazing!

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