The WebVisions conference here in Portland provided me the opportunity to network with folks in the industry and keep current with the latest digital trends.
With over 100 sessions, workshops, and events to choose from, there was no way to attend everything. The last session on the last day about Designing with Data, led by Todd Zaki Warfel, however, provided the most insightful nuggets of the conference for me.
What I thought was a session about design directions in infographics turned out to apply to basically to all design and, especially, design and UX in the digital world. And given the substantial variance in user experience and design out there — from websites to mobile apps — this is a topic that resonates here at COPIOUS.
How does one address this? Of course it’s not a formula you can run through Excel, but keep the following in mind:
- Everything is visual noise. If you’re able to understand what elements are important, then you can apply priority and plan accordingly.
- Emphasize everything and you emphasize nothing. There’s a direct correlation between an increased amount of visual weight/crap/stuff on a website or mobile and a decrease in engagement.
- Be selective and intentional. If you’re planning and designing for mobile, tablet, and desktop audiences, begin with the smallest device and work up from there; it’ll force you to think about the core needs first and foremost.
To help address emphasis and what you include in the presentation of anything digital, here are some techniques to consider:
Use it strategically and intentionally. Think Google’s most recent design direction; it’s mostly grey save for the strategic use of red and blue for things you need to interact with.
If what you’re presenting doesn’t have the same impact visually in black and white, there’s probably not enough contrast. Another pointer is to look at your design upside-down, which releases your brain from processing the textual elements as a distraction.
It matters. Make things you want to be prominent bigger than things you don’t; at the core, it’s as easy as that.
In any situation where text is involved (read: almost all the time), use varying text weights (i.e. bold, light, etc.) to lead the visitor. Users may not be able to articulate it, but they’ll notice when content that has too much content of the same weight.
Nuanced use of elements of various shapes allows you to show users without having to tell them explicitly with text.
Use it only when it adds to user experience when points 1-5 above have been exhausted. We all remember red flashing text on sites back in the early days of the Internet, but there are plenty of (admittedly less egregious) examples out there today. No, that flipping saloon-door effect in your mobile app, doesn’t make me want to use your app more!
The key takeaway here is that all of this stuff matters when presenting anything in the digital space. From your website, mobile app, to latest infographic, we can all strive to control and reduce digital noise and make the Internet a better place.