Why Improve Visual Design to Improve Web Usability?
When a conversation about web usability comes up, it’s usually about making changes to elements that relate to task based interactions. The reality is that the visual presentation has a huge role in how users interact with a website. This may not seem evident because you are not really “using” how something looks. However, visual design has a big influence on the interactive elements of a website.
A concept that will help you understand the Importance of web design is the idea of a visual path. When a user is presented with a website, they are given some sort of path on how to interact with a website. For example, a big headline and a link would indicate that they should pay attention to that area and possibly follow through. For this reason, you want to purposely create a design that presents a clear and obvious path for the user to take. Leaving this to chance
Even colors can affect how the user interacts with a website. If you use red font for a block of content in order to mention something of importance, the user may skip the main content to read that red block of text. Now, if the intention was to make sure that the user followed a linear visual path and paid attention to the red block of text near the end, then you have failed in your goals with your design.
The same idea behind color can be used for positive results. If you are operating an ecommerce store and you want to stress a time sensitive promotion, the color red can be used to indicate urgency. Using red font around the buy button or even using the color red in the buy button could possibly result in increased conversions. The point here is that color just had a huge role in one of the most important interactive elements of your website.
Another important aspect of visual design that may not be obvious is formatting and white space. The way your website is formatted affects what users pay attention and thus, what they interact with. Formatting should support the elements of your website that you want users to engage. In addition, white space should be used in a manner that allows the user to easily focus on specific points of a website.
Having a website that is clustered by multiple blocks of content boxes can be confused. This is fairly common when you browse ecommerce stores online. If you don’t look deep into it, these stores often look organized and cleanly laid out. But once you really start to analyze the design, you may feel like you are getting lost with the myriad of options presented to you. And the reason why isn’t because you are being presented with the options. It’s because a lack of adequate white space is making everything feel clustered.
As you can see, the visual presentation of your website does have a huge influence on web usability. It’s not as superficial as many people seem to think. You’ll see that the results are night and day once you test different visual designs and compare it to the older version of your website. So the next time you think about improving usability, don’t forget that how things are presented matters a lot.