Visuals play an important role when it comes to User Experience. They can provoke emotional and physiological reactions that can influence a user’s behaviour. Three areas where visuals can be used to influence behaviour are:
How People See
White Space Makes It Easy to Find Information
The absence of visuals—known as white space—helps our brain to quickly distinguish visual elements and content from one another. Providing enough space between objects helps us to easily scan a webpage to find what we’re looking for.
Visual Hierarchy Breaks Elements into Chunks
Design principles like contrast, colour, and scale helps to make things stand out so people will notice them. It can also provide visual cues as to what they can interact with, such as buttons and links.
Because people tend to filter information and focus on what they’re looking for, don’t assume the viewer will see everything on screen. Create points-of-interest between text, call-to-actions (CTAs), buttons, and links.
Grouping Similar Content to Create Normal Reading Patterns
Clustering similar information together helps the viewer know where they can find what they need because they’re familiar where something else is located. For example, someone looking for social media contact would likely connect that to general contact information, and start there.
The way people scan a website is influenced by past experiences and expectations. Users tend to move to meaningful information—normally positioned towards the center of the screen—and skip the edges of a screen, where less relevant stuff such as logos and blank spaces are located.
How People Act
Placement and Styling of Elements to Provoke Action
It’s common to find the most important CTA placed at the top of a website’s landing page so that it is easily found by the viewer. People tend to notice colours and images first, so using these visuals can be very useful in grabbing their attention.
Accompanying buttons and links should be visually clear and easy to find so that the user can perform the action you want them to.
Online Security and Privacy
Creating a sense of trust with your users through visual elements is important due to the lack of certainty that comes with sharing sensitive and personal information online. People judge things based on the way it looks. Consistency in things like visuals, language, and tone-of-voice helps to convey professionalism and reliability.
Additional ways to earn the trust of your users is to highlight security features to reaffirm that the site is trustworthy. This is especially important when it comes to the check-out process, or when using online banking services.
When we enjoy the aesthetics of something, we are entertained by it and our level of patience increases.
Desire to Interact with a Product
The more visually pleasing something is, the more we want to engage with it. This holds true for the design of an app interface or website. When we enjoy the aesthetics of something, we are entertained by it and our level of patience increases.
This can be incredibly useful if your product requires a bit of time and mental effort to learn how to use, as people are willing to spend more time interacting with it.
How People Feel
Perception of Usability and Efficiency
Not only do attractive visuals make a product more enjoyable to use, but it can affect the way we perceive a product’s function. One study in Japan showed that when people used two different ATMs, they reported that one of the ATMs worked better and was more efficient. The reality was that both ATMs functioned exactly the same, but because people enjoyed the way one of them looked, it provided a better user experience.
Identity (Branding) Creates Familiarity
People tend to gravitate to what is familiar and what they already know. A familiar Brand is an easy representation of the experience of a product or service. If you have had a great experience with a particular Brand’s products or services, you’ll likely revisit that Brand.
Branding is especially important when it comes to online shopping because the Brand represents the quality of a product in the absence of being able to see and feel the actual product.
The “Look and Feel” is Used as a First Indicator of Trust
When we first look at something, we get an overall impression of what we’re seeing. Based on our initial impression, we decide if what we’re looking at is worth investing more of our attention, or if we should move on to something else.
Thoughtful use of white space, layout, typography, colour, and imagery on a website or app can imply professionalism and expertise. Consistent use of these elements creates a user’s expectations. When these expectations are met, they can help create a sense of credibility and trust.
The majority of information we take in is processed subconsciously. We make decisions within seconds before rationally deciding why. This is why visual cues assist us in decision-making that requires mental effort. Designers can use visuals to help with the usability of a product, establishing trust, and getting users to take a certain action.