• Visual Design, Looking Good Matters


Visual Design, Looking Good Matters

21 February, 2011

In 2002, the Stanford Web Credibility Project published a group of research findings about what causes people to trust (or not trust) a website. In their website, they list some of the questions guiding the research: (1) what causes people to believe (or not believe) what they find on the web?, (2) what contextual and design factors influence these assessments and strategies?, and some other questions.     From this research, they compiled 10 guidelines for building the credibility of a web site. Guideline #6 states: Design your site so it looks professional (or is appropriate for your purpose). We find that people quickly evaluate a site by visual design alone. When designing your site, pay attention to layout, typography, images, consistency issues, and more. Of course, not all sites gain credibility by looking like IBM.com. The visual design should match site's purpose.

Aesthetics is fundamental if you want to build credibility for your site. Looking good matters!  

Consider these few tips about how to place several main elements such as: titles, sub-titles backgrounds, graphics, and so on.  

Three fundamental layout design factors are:

Looking good matters! Consider three fundamental factors in layout and design.

  • Visual hierarchy
  • Visual flow
  • Grouping

Visual hierarchy  - Put the most important content in a way that it stands out the most. On the other hand, put the least important in a way that it stands out the least. Others call it Optical Weight to emphasize which graphic element should be the most attention gainer (having more optical weight) or the least attention gainer (having less optical weight).   Also, layout plays a major role in here. A well-designed layout will provide with specific functional areas of a web site. For example, the title should be positioned at the top of a page with a font size rounding the 24-48points mark. Sub-titles font size should be between the 14-18 points mark. Graphics dimensions should be proportional to its context relevance.

Visual flow - Which is the first eye-catching object of your web site? Is the title or the logo?  Is the long coloured picture or the tiny reddish buttons? This eye-catching object will determine at some extent, your site visual flow and focal point. From this focal point on, your site visitors will follow a visual path that will engage them in terms of what is important or worth to take a look at. As a designer, you should be capable of designing a visual flow that will work. You want your visitor to stay and look around. How it will be accomplished is a combination of design strategy and luck. Each person has unique characteristics that will influence how they screen your site, where they stop by and click on. Try to anticipate, and intentionally design, the visual flow of your site.  

Grouping - When different objects are part of our site design (and usually this is the way it is), we should take care of some elements to make the design works. Eyes and brain love to see things in order. This is established by human behaviour experts and explains why grouping objects make sense. Take a look at these elements :

  • Position - Group similar objects close together to engage viewers.
  • Size & Colours - Use similar shapes and colours for each object. For example, use four circles each one representing related topics such as: global warming, recycling, water pollution and waste disposal. Objects from the same group should have similar dimensions and colours. This deal directly with similarity: a very important aspect of good web site design.
  • Continuity - Try to align lines, curves or other shapes so they guide the visual path of your design.
  • Closure - Bring those rectangles, circles or any other shape close together so they appear to be closed boxes.

Of course, we have to consider other aspects of web design like typography, images, informational structure and many more.

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