Basics for designers

ART asks and inspires - DESIGN answers and motivates
Asking and inspiring vs answering and motivating is for my point of view the difference of art and design.
And it’s again and again the thing I have to tell upcoming designers or often experienced one. Yes as designer we have the freedom to do many things – to go various ways – but we have a clear aim: “helping people”.

To help someone you have to be understandable and meaningful. Understandability and meaningfulness is possibly the most important issue to be considered while judging the goodness of a design. And if we talk about design I am talking about visual appearance and content.

On the one hand beauty is subjective, and that makes our world so diverse. On the other hand it follows rules which we all learned as we grow up. To design something there are some rules and guidance we have to have in mind and should stick to. Yes for sure you can break rules and often it’s good and useful to do it but you should know what you break and have a reason for it.

I am damn sure that you heard of ‘Gestalt Theory’ or the quote
“The whole is other than the sum of the parts.” By Kurt Koffka, 
during your school years and if you studied design or as I am architecture.


Gestalt principles

Gestalt principles describe how everyone visually perceives our world and what we see and that’s why these theory is sitting at the foundation of everything we design.

I will not rephrase it you can either visit Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestalt_psychology

Or which I like much more the series of Andy Rutledge.



Visual Hierarchy

Visual hierarchy is one of the most important principles behind good design and it’s the order in which the viewer perceives what he sees.

Whatever we design there are always certain parts which are either from the provider have more importance and on the other hand from the experience and expectation of the viewer. If we talk about retail e.g. the calls to action and value proposition have the first and highest importance for the vendor. The value proposition might be also on number one for the customer but for sure on number one are the product attributes and in best case only the attributes which are of interest for the particular customer. And here you see you have to understand the provider and his aims but you will not design in a good way if you don’t understand the users’ needs and expectations.

You see to rank elements in your design you need the business objectives and the of the target persons. If you don’t have a specific objectives and purpose, you can’t know what to prioritize how.


White space

White spaces, also named often negative spaces, even it has a different color, are the areas and parts of the page which left free. White space works often much better to separate and order content elements than lines or borders. A great side effect by working with white space is you get a clean design which also looks valuable and unobtrusive. Often I hear from clients that this is just lost space – you do not lost space you win clarity. By not cramming a page full of text, images and border elements you do not be at risk of looking crammed, crowded and distracting.


Hick’s Law

Hick’s law essentially states that the time it takes to make a decision increases as the number of alternatives increase . For example to find a link in a navigation menu and scanning is required. But reducing Hick’s Law just to navigation would be a misunderstanding. When we apply ideas such as Hick’s Law beyond the narrow scope of navigation, we start to see the power of removing distractions for our viewers. Slimming content and interactions down to a small number of clear options will lead to a smart easy to use interface.


Fitt’s Law

Fitts's law is an idea of human movement primarily used in human–computer interaction and ergonomics. This scientific law predicts that the time required to rapidly move to a target area is a function of the ratio between the distance to the target and the width of the target.

It might sounds like the bigger an element and the closer it is to us in real live or to the mouse on a desktop or touch areas on a mobile device …



… , the easier it is to use it - that is only right to a certain extent.

A button that takes up half the screen is not a good idea, and we don’t need a mathematical study to know this. First of all the size of a button should be proportional to its expected frequency of use and its importance as mentioned before.


Conclusion

As you so you have freedom in design but not all the freedom which you have in art.

You should design for the viewer, your user and provider in mind. Using these web design principles you can get to aesthetically and economically rewarding design and interfaces.





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