Have you ever visited a website and for some reason it just “felt right”, aside from not being able to distinguish why, the site simply put you at ease long enough to relinquish your intellects natural defenses and delve deeper into the content.
Chances are, the emotional experience was a result of clearly defined usability principles integrated into design.
While impressions are unique to each, while presented with the same objective experience (such as navigating a site), each individuals has their our own unique and distinct impressions of how design, form and function correlate as their propensity (and the fondness toward each is truly subjective).
Have you ever considered why one should not rely on subjective opinion for design when creating a website? There is more to usability than meets the eye. Art, form and function all serve a purpose, but purpose is the initial and underlying objective to consider in this trinity if engaging users and having them purchase or visit again is your objective.
For example borrowing a concept from usability to establish the next point, there is a principle referred to as “psychographics”. Psychographics involve the utilization of a social group analysis to arrive at subjective benchmarks that measure values, lifestyles, opinions and preferences.
When combined with colors statistically proven to appeal to a particular demographic, content geared to engage the reader and a tactful use of images to satisfy the interests of the target audience, creating compelling web pages geared for conversion apply more to science than art.
As an artist, it pains me to admit that after studying usability the most fascinating thing about how we function similarly when it comes to cognitive friction. Self evidence is the key to design for the web, a function must be self evident or it will require bouts of trial and error for the user, which simply results in user anxiety. If it looks like a link, it should be a link, if it looks like a button then make sure it goes somewhere.
These are known as “population stereotypes”, population stereotypes are nothing more than a subjectively agreed upon format of functioning that the collective share as common opinion through observation. For example, if there is a door (that appears as a door) we assume the hinges are on the left or the right, not the top when trying to enter it. Similarly a typical looking door handle should twist and not have to be pushed or pulled to open the door.
When you force people to alter their subjective process of selection (such as having to find Waldo to navigate the site).
The aggregate number of offenses that create disparity between visual, intellectual, motor and memory functions are all summarized in the “feelings” that accompany the browsing experience. Such feelings determine if you (1) stay longer and peruse the site or (2) simply leave because some emotional trigger made you uncomfortable or you simply lost interest from the awkward transaction of information and design.
Unraveling the cause and effect relationships of the last point (why people leave a site or stay longer) is the obsession of usability experts. If the cognitive friction is low and the tasks are intellectually evident, the design allows the user to accomplish their objective with ease. This is the real objective of design, to serve the function seamlessly in a complimentary role to reinforce continuity.
Inconsistencies in design can result in user aggravation by challenging visitors to abort their comfort and conditioning for a newly proposed medium. For example, try navigating through this site without clicking. If you have been conditioned to clicking the mouse to navigate since 1983 when Apple released the Lisa personal computer, it is not as easy as one might think.
The point being, creating a logical and emotionally appealing site takes more than just wishful thinking, it takes an understanding of core fundamentals to eliminate unnecessary elements from the design. This allows the most simplistic objective to stand unchallenged in the mind of the viewer.
Elimination of excessive motor functions can aid task flow and increase efficiency. For example, by grouping radial buttons and drop-down menus together instead of grouping a combination of text field and mouse related functions can expedite entry time considerably.
The time you save from not having to remove your hand from the mouse (if you type 60 words per minute could cost you 8-12 words of typing time) by comparison to an optimized user centered task flow. This is merely one example of usability in action as it pertains to data entry.
Another example of usability, the fovea in the eye can only interpret a 5% angle, based on the visual angle of the monitor, every time you group more than 6 vertical lines of information, you are pushing past its ability to focus and achieve fixation (when the eye comes to rest on an object). The point of this snippet of trivia, use carriage returns frequently every 3-4 rows of text to increase reader engagement.
If you provide an excessive amount of information (such as a run on paragraph), it forces the reader to engage their memory (to remember the context) as well as additional motor skills to reposition their head or gaze. Elements such as these are anticipated in advance and eliminated or consolidated into optimized packets of information (a principle of grouping) check att.com for an excellent example of symmetrical grouping and continuity using rectangles to prevent user anxiety (while only presenting core functions).
Usability focuses on true optimization (on every level) ranging from visual elements using the Gestalt principle all the way through optimizing a contact form to enhance the task flow, reduce resistance and increase ROI.
Armed with the ability to spot a bad design in a heartbeat, learning usability is one sure-fire method to gain insight from others successes and mistakes to make the most out of each design you embrace.
Producing a favorable browsing experience that leaves a splendid impression on the reader is the objective of user centered design. What value does SEO have, if the page it promotes simply fails to fulfill the expectations of the viewer. Understanding the needs of your target audience is crucial for developing a design theme that is conducive to the objective of the site. This is the art of SEO Design or SEO Web Design which also includes appeasing search engine spiders as well as humans with clearly developed design principles.
You only have 3-5 seconds to make your first impression, by eliminating any peculiarities that are known offenses either visually or intellectually are the first step to engaging your reader. From there, it’s all about the content, the knowledge or the entertainment value your content provides. But at least with a few tactics covered in this post, you may in fact find that there is more to usability than meets the eye.