Learn about the essence of visual design in user experience, discover it’s key elements and how it affects the usability of your digital product.
Having an online presence nowadays is a key factor in the success of any business or organization. A well-designed website can do wonders – attract and retain target customers, improve user engagement and conversion rates and what not. But how to create a well thought out digital product that will appeal to the users?
The answer is quite simple – with UX design.
User experience design (UX design) is the process that designers use to create digital products that provide meaningful user experiences. It involves the complete process, from designing the website through market research to creating a prototype and testing it.
The most important part of UX design is coming up with solutions that solve problems and meet the needs of your customers. Although it might seem that focusing on the functionality of a digital product will be enough to fulfill this goal, designing a really good user experience is a far more complex process.
It will also involve optimizing the information architecture of your website, extensive user behavior research and, of course, visual design.
Visual design in UX
Now that we know that visual design is an important part of the UX, let’s have a closer look at what it actually is.
According to the Interaction Design Foundation,
In simple terms, visual design is the overall appearance and aesthetics of the product. But in order to be effective, visual design must also consider how well it adds to usability and the intuitive navigation of the website.
The importance of visual design for user experience lies in the fact that it ultimately creates the first impression of the product for the user, which in turn can have a great impact on user behavior. A well-thought visual design can play a big role in successfully establishing positive brand identity, creating emotional ties with the users and guiding their attention to the important features of the product.
Moreover, consistency of the visual elements, such as color or typography, helps establish a visual hierarchy aiding user navigation and improving intuitivity of the customer journey.
Effective visual design is also critical in the context of marketing your product, where it can directly impact the success of a user experience from an online campaign. Well-designed marketing campaigns with compelling visuals can capture the attention of the target audience and effectively communicate the target message, resulting in more users and potentially higher conversion rates. Meanwhile, poorly designed campaigns with confusing visuals can lead to user disinterest and mistrust.
In the field of UX, visual design is usually the responsibility of a UI or visual designer, who makes sure that the way a website looks matches the way it works and follows usability principles to give the user a pleasant experience. At the same time, visual designers work closely with other business departments to ensure their goals can be fulfilled without infringing the UX of the product.
For example, UI designers can be tasked to create visual elements that will capture user attention on the specific element leading to a product page, helping the company increase sales and revenue. Another task a visual designer might receive is to create attractive visuals that will be used to incorporate ads or integrate partner applications on the website without harming the overall branding that they also oversee.
All of these choices have different effects on the website, from the big picture (the scope and the branding) to a small icon on a stand-alone screen (surface).
Let’s look at a specific example of how visual design help reach non-UX related goals:
Imagine you have an e-shop and you want to increase your sales with better visual design. Having a shopping cart icon displayed clearly and in contrasting colors on the user interface enables your user to easily navigate to the final step of the purchasing process, which will more likely result in a finished transaction. This can also lead to users appreciating the simplicity of the purchase on your e-shop and thus, they will be more likely to become return customers, bringing in more revenue.
And now let’s answer the question – what are the most important elements of visual design?
Four important elements in visual design
Any screen or page in a digital product can be broken down into several basic parts that make it look good and aesthetically pleasing. Fonts, lines, shapes, colors, textures, volume, and space are the basic tools that visual designers use. Their job is to put all of these parts of design together and make the best layout from a visual point of view.
Now let’s have a closer look at the most common elements in the visual design include:
Color is a fun part of a design to play with because it can be used in many different ways. You can draw attention to one part of a design over another with color, and color palettes and schemes can help people remember your brand.
Having colors that appeal to the users is important and a professional visual designer should know all about color theory, complementary and analogous color schemes and how to properly implement them on the website.
To make sure you understand what those terms mean, you can check out this valuable resource about color.
Text is the primary way that we communicate information to our audience. It plays a critical role in shaping their perception of our visual design.
The way we use text can impact how our audience engages with our website. How they understand the information presented and how they feel about our brand or product.
When it comes to incorporating text into your visual design, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind:
- Choose the right font. The font you choose will impact the readability of your text. You’ll want to choose a font that is both easy to read and visually appealing.
- Hierarchy. It helps you to guide your audience to the information that is presented visually.
- Layout. Where you place your text on the page can impact how well it is perceived by your audience. Make sure that it doesn’t compete with other elements on the page.
Shape is one of the fundamental elements in visual design. The use of shape in design can help create visual interest, establish a sense of hierarchy and balance, and convey meaning and emotion. Shapes can be used to guide the viewer’s eye, create contrast, harmony and define negative space.
Lines are an important part of web design. They are used in everything from icons to illustrations to charts and more. Lines can be thin, thick, dashed, solid, colored, or just black.
When it comes to integrating user experience in visual design, line is an important element that can significantly impact the overall user experience. The use of horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines can create a sense of stability, order, or tension, respectively.
Also, lines can be used to create visual hierarchy, such as thicker lines to denote more important information. Too many lines can create visual clutter and confusion for the user. By understanding how to effectively use lines in visual design, designers can create a more engaging and intuitive user experience.
Visual design vs. usability
Usability describes how a user interacts with an interface, such as a website, software, or a mobile app. It’s about improving the ease of use for the user. The interface is assessed in terms of five quality components to evaluate how feasible it is for the user.
Evaluation of Usability
On the surface, usability is all about making websites easier to navigate, making sure it works well, and evaluating how satisfied the user is. It shows how easy it is for a user to navigate websites, software, or applications. Usability is not a single value of the user interface. Instead, it is a combination of various elements.
Here are some of the most important components of usability:
Even if users have never seen the UI of your website before, they can still achieve their goals easily and spend little time trying to get to know how to use your website.
- Familiarity of patterns
The layout of the course/UI should be easy to understand and use.
If your website provides a great usability, it should not be a hard task for the returning users to instantly remember how to use your website.
The users’ experience should be satisfactory, and they find the whole interaction seamless, which means that your website should not only be efficient, but also effective.
From a user’s point of view, the UI navigation should be easy to use.
When using the UI, navigation is so natural that the user does not need to give it much thought.
Appealing visual design example. Source.
Visual design focuses on making a website aesthetically pleasing. It involves placing the images, colors, fonts, and other design elements strategically so it appears visually pleasing for the user.
Evaluation of Visual Design
Visual design is about making the UI and its parts appear good on the screen by using images, fonts, lines, shapes, typography, and other essential elements in a thoughtful way. A good visual design always has value in terms of both how it looks and what it says.
Here are a few components of a visual design:
Harmony means that each part of the design complements the other parts of the website.
Arranging visual elements to appear structured and balanced refers to the alignment of the design.
Balance is the thought process behind symmetry. It puts the design elements together in a way that makes it appear good.
Colors add depth and make designs appear more three-dimensional. While textures are used to create patterns that make the experience feel real.
Two-dimensional or three-dimensional art shows mass and volume.
Now we can see that a visual designer and a usability expert are like next-door neighbors, each with an important job to achieve one goal – a smooth user experience. Usability is one of the most important and first things to think about when starting any design or development work.
The way a website looks also plays an important part in the user experience. For example, a clean and minimalist design can create a sense of ease and simplicity. The use of color can also impact the user experience. Certain colors can evoke different emotions, for example warm colors like red and orange create a sense of excitement and urgency.
How visual design creates a better user experience?
User interfaces should be designed in a way that they are easy to understand and use for a new customer. According to Forrester Research, a great UX design can increase the customer conversions by up to 400%. Users can quickly reach their goals when websites are designed by experts. The goal is to deliver functionality, reliability, and usability through the design.
Good visual design can make your customers happy, which can significantly impact your business.
Here are some ways that visual designers can use their skills to make better UX designs:
Even the most beautiful design can become useless if it isn’t consistent. Users have to spend more time and energy learning how to use a website that doesn’t appear consistent. No matter how beautiful the website is, it is of no use if users get confused along the way.
Visual design isn’t just about making the UI look nice; it’s also about making sure the overall look of the website is consistent. Visual designers make a style guide and set rules for how styles should be used in layouts to reach this goal.
Visual hierarchy involves arranging and drawing attention to things on a website. A clear visual hierarchy helps users get information and focus on what they need to do.
As your competitors’ websites are just a click away, this rule is even more important when you’re designing a website. If your website looks unorganized, people will close it in the blink of an eye.
Testing Visual Concepts
As humans, our brains are wired to quickly process information if it appears beautiful and organized. The images, fonts, and colors on your website can play a big role in the user’s visual experience.
That’s why make sure to test your design before officially launching your website. Take feedback from the real audience about the design and usability of the website. The more you test, the better your final design will be.
Using trends in your visual design can make it more appealing to users. At the same time, it’s important to think about every trend before using your website to make sure it goes with your business values. After all, changing your website style frequently does more harm than good to your website.
In UX design, decisions are made on the strategy, scope, structure, and surface planes. Dedicating enough attention to the visual design can greatly improve your digital’s product performance with your users and effectively aids user experience, so make sure not to skip this step in your website design.
To test how good your visual design appeals to target users, use one of UXtweak’s many tools! Register for your free account and start testing today!