We began this series on effective interface design last week when we covered the following five principles: Affordance, Alignment, Chunking, Color, and Consistency. Here are other elements that will ensure a winning online design.
Proximity – This is a fairly simple concept: most people automatically associate items that are placed together as a group or unit. If items appear too far apart, they are not perceived as being part of the same unit. Consider this principle when creating headings, as too much white space may cause the user to assume the items are not connected.
Readability – Assess the ease with which users can read your content. If using a background color, does the text or object sufficiently stand out? If the colors are too similar, it may be difficult to read. In addition, text should have proper spacing to make it easy to read, the complexity of the grammar and sentence length should be appropriate to the audience, and white space used correctly, as discussed in “Proximity,” above.
Recognition – Recognition is seeing something as familiar, whereas recall requires digging into the recesses of the brain to try to remember information. When presented with familiar items, people recognize them more easily when a stimulus is placed before their eyes than when they have to try to recall abstract information from long-term memory. This is why drop-down menus are a popular way to prompt users to recall information – the principle of Recognition is employed.
Similarity – The brain tends to group like items with other like items. This means that it is expected these items will perform similarly. If you create buttons that look alike, they should have similar functionality.
Visibility – Important elements and options should be easily visible. A good design will indicate the status of the user’s interaction, actions that can be performed, and what the results of those actions will be. In the SavvySMART™ eLearning series, for example, a playbar is presented which allows users to navigate through lessons using intuitive and consistent controls.
As you can see, there are many items competing for the designer’s attention. A great message can be derailed by a poor design, but a great design really can’t improve a poor message! Make sure you know what you want to say; then, use these design principles to effectively communicate it.