2 Basic Rules for UX Visual Designers
posted by Jessica
on May 21, 2015
Human brain experts noted that we, humans, are sight-driven creatures. While other animals rely more on hearing and smell, we rely on our vision to process incoming information to our brain.
This fact has major implications for interaction design. It means that every visual decision you make for your product will have an enormous impact on the interaction, even if only subconsciously on the part of the user. Stephen P. Anderson, a product design consultant, points out that visuals will affect more than the experience–-they’ll also affect the user’s behavior. This means that a good visual design can improve sales, increase signups and conversions, and encourage certain user behaviors.
The visual is often taken for granted in interaction design, but here are two basic rules for respecting the dominance of human vision.
1. Crystal clear navigation and orientation
Users browsing the web are not unlike nomads. People have a general sense of where they want to go but still need some direction and cues. The way they do it is by creating mental maps, and as visual creatures, we’re going to need a few visual markers to find our way. Your navigation needs to act like a GPS: Users need to know their current location, what routes are possible, and what the next steps should be.
Signifying words, breadcrumbs, links—in addition to menus, search fields, and clickable icons— are all sight-based tools in your design toolbox that help you create a sense of orientation and navigation. When it comes to the primary navigation, you need to make a strong visual impression.
“Breadcrumbs” are the most explicit way of satisfying all three requirements. This treatment leaves a clear visual trail for users to track their visit. But breadcrumbs must be treated as a backup option for users, because they’re not a visually intuitive method of clicking between pages. They’re mostly used in sites with complex hierarchies, such as e-commerce sites, and aren’t required for simpler sites.
2. Visual consistency and predictability
Consistency is important in all aspects of interaction design, not just visuals. Inconsistencies in visuals are glaring (just check out the The World’s Worst Website Ever to get a vision of design hell). Consistency creates a sense of logic in how your site is designed and arranged, which creates a more gratifying experience (happy users are returning users). People prefer consistency because, as mentioned, it improves predictability, which increases learnability. And when your interface is easier to learn, it’s also more usable.
Because inconsistencies are such a consistent problem, the two best strategies to combat them are following UI design patterns and using a style guide.
The real trouble with inconsistency is that it increases the so-called “cognitive load.” As Kathryn Whitenton, UX Specialist at the Nielson Norman Group, explains in an article on the topic, cognitive load is how much the users have to think when using a product. Every inconsistency forces the user to stop and process what the difference means, why it’s different, and how it affects their behavior. Therefore, the less inconsistencies, the smoother the interactions, and the better the experience.
When people are online, they usually say they’re “looking” at a website, not “interacting” with one, even though the latter is more accurate. We rely heavily on sight, and visuals guide us in the creation of our opinions, our solutions to problems, and what we believe is our best course of action. Because interaction design is so closely linked to the user experience, using smart visuals to create the best UX will indirectly but assuredly lead to better interactions.
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