Want to learn how to balance visual aesthetic and UX design? Read on for our top tips for designing a perfectly balanced website.
It can be easy to get carried away with web design. However, by focusing on the design alone, you might complicate the navigation or usability of your platform, negatively affecting the user experience. Your website should be more than just a pretty face – it should also be easy to use.
What Is UX Design?
As the name suggests, UX (User Experience) design is the totality of user interactions with an app or program – from merely observing the branding and color scheme to the ease of use and functionality of different features. UX design covers all these aspects and determines how satisfied the users will be with the product.
UX design and graphic design are meant to complement each other, with the end goal of increasing the quality of your user experience and accessibility. Here’s how to strike the perfect balance between aesthetic and UX design, and 8 tips for designing a visually balanced website.
1. Keep it Simple
Try to avoid extreme designs when it comes to both accessibility and aesthetics. If you think your UX visual design is too much, here are some website elements to reconsider.
How the letters on a webpage are laid out and presented can affect how users see your webpage. Choose a typeface that’s easy to read, compatible across most devices, and easy to skim.
The layout refers to how your text and pictures interact on a page. Choose a coherent and consistent design across your web pages that’s eye-catching, reflects your brand, and doesn’t overwhelm your user.
Emphasis can exaggerate certain aspects of your site and make them stand out to the viewer. You can emphasize specific design elements such as text, color, or shape to draw attention to certain parts of your webpage.
Including imagery that complements the rest of your web page is essential. Whether you use illustrations, graphics, photographs, or a combination, images should work well with your branding and add something of value to your website – either aesthetic appeal or information.
Here’s an example of typography, layout, and emphasis working together to draw the viewer’s attention:
2. Maintain Consistency
Your website’s overall look and feel should be consistent with your branding, other marketing channels – such as email marketing and social media – and separate web pages. Here are three crucial areas in which to maintain consistency:
- Tone of voice: your writing style and tone should remain consistent across your website. While layout can vary across pages, keeping the tone similar throughout will solidify your brand’s messaging and increase your site’s usability.
- Your background: try to keep your page backgrounds similar, or choose specific designs for different areas of your website, like your FAQs page.
- Color palette: your color palette should reflect your brand and remain consistent throughout your website. Keep your color palette simple by choosing three to four colors and utilizing them creatively.
3. Add Contextual Images
A picture says a thousand words! Remember to choose images that complement your fonts, text, and layout when optimizing your website’s UX and visual aesthetic. Feel free to get creative with your visuals and design, but ensure any images add value and context.
Images, videos, or GIFs can also help to reinforce your brand or service and show your products in use. Motion graphics, animations, and videos are also more eye-catching than static images, so they can help draw attention to a particular area of your website.
4. Limit Options
Users might feel confused or overwhelmed if you offer them every possible item or option at once. Keep things simple by providing limited, relevant options and only displaying information related to the specific page they’re browsing.
The more options your visitors have, the longer it will take them to decide on an action. Too many choices could create a roadblock in the customer’s journey and even hinder their user experience.
5. Utilize White Space
Have you ever heard the expression “less is more”? Utilizing white or negative space on your website can help create visual breathing room and highlight essential page elements.
Take, for example, this picture of oral care company Quip’s homepage:
The white space allows the viewer to immediately take in the tone and messaging of the brand and product. While the user interface is simple, the white space emphasizes the product and call-to-action button.
6. Prioritize Navigation
The ideal website navigation should be efficient, user-friendly, and frictionless. Your visitors should be able to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. To achieve this, you can:
- Utilize breadcrumbs: by using breadcrumbs, users can track which pages they’ve visited and return to their preferred products or pages, moving them forward in their customer journey.
- Feature a search bar at the top of the page: a search bar at the top allows users to quickly search for what they’re looking for, reducing friction on the website. You can avoid user frustration and pain points by displaying the search bar prominently.
- Keep your primary navigation simple: your navigation options should stay the same, regardless of the page. This consistency will help users navigate your website and keep the user experience simple and easy.
7. Test With Real Users
Collecting your users’ feedback is vital to finding out what they want. You can do this by:
- Gathering first-time users: assemble a group of new users who have never seen your site before and can view it with fresh eyes.
- Conducting user testing: Once you’ve finished your site, conduct user testing to highlight things you might have missed – like missing navigation or CTAs on your landing page.
- Gathering feedback: see what your users say about the visual design of your site. Ensure you gather feedback about all design aspects to enhance the user experience.
- Implementing changes: create a plan to implement user feedback to improve your user experience and design continually.
8. Consider Design Principles
There are a few failsafe web design principles all designers should keep in mind. These tried-and-tested guidelines will help you to create a polished and functional website that engage your audience.
1. Gestalt Principle
The Gestalt Principle describes the way people see the world. It explains how humans combine similar items, recognize patterns, and process complex images.
In the simplest terms, gestalt theory is the idea that the human brain will attempt to simplify and organize complex images or designs by subconsciously arranging the parts into an organized system that creates a whole rather than just a series of elements. Designers can apply this principle to UX design to make the most seamless, efficient, and visually pleasing design possible.
- Similarity: it’s human nature to group things together. In gestalt, similar elements are visually grouped, regardless of their proximity. You can group them by color, shape, or size. Similarity ties different visual elements together irrespective of their position in a design.
- Continuation: the law of continuity states that the human eye will follow the smoothest path when viewing lines, regardless of their beginning or end. When two or more objects intersect, viewers see each object as one uninterrupted object.
- Closure: in its simplest form, closure allows your eye to follow something – like a dotted line – to its end. Even if large chunks of a design are missing, your brain automatically fills in the missing sections. Closure is simply a visual continuity between two sets of elements that do not touch each other in a graphic design.
- Proximity: This principle refers to how close elements are to one another. The strongest proximity relationships are those between overlapping subjects, but just grouping objects into a single area can also have a strong proximity effect.
- Figure: The figure principle is similar to the closure principle because it takes advantage of how the brain processes negative space. When you group multiple objects, viewers will perceive them as a single object.
- Symmetry and order: This principle says that your brain will perceive ambiguous shapes as simply as possible. Viewers will perceive objects as symmetrical shapes when formed around their center.
2. The Principle of Hierarchy
Whether you’re a practiced visual designer or a novice, your UX design should harness the principle of visual hierarchy. Visual hierarchy is the design practice of arranging website elements to draw users’ focus to the most critical aspects.
How you organize visual elements can direct viewers to specific actions, like a CTA for a free trial of DocuSign alternatives or a link to compare products. This visual direction helps users navigate your site and complete desired steps in the customer journey.
Using contrast on your website can help you make specific elements stand out. By utilizing contrast as a UX visual design element, you can balance your webpage in a pleasing way to the eye and the overall aesthetic appeal.
Get Started with UX Design
Designing a website can be a tricky balance between images, context, tone, and usability. By practicing the rules, principles, and suggestions in this article, you should be able to navigate the design process with ease, no matter your skill level. In the end, it’s possible to have a website that’s both pleasing to the eye and usable – remember to strike the right balance.
Guest Author: Nick Shaw
Nick Shaw is the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) of Brightpearl – a retail-focused digital operations platform encompassing sales and inventory management software, accounting, logistics, CRM, and more. It is responsible for EMEA Sales, Global Marketing, and Alliances. Before joining Brightpearl, Nick was GM and Vice President of the EMEA Consumer business at Symantec and was responsible for a $500m revenue business. Nick also published articles for domains such as Cincopa and Paperform.