Friday, June 23, 2006

Where Visual Design Meets Usability - An Interview with Luke Wroblewski, Part I

An interview with "functioning form" advocate- LukeW...

"Our first introduction to Luke Wroblewski was when we read his book, Site-Seeing: A Visual Approach to Web Usability. We were impressed by Luke’s clarity in describing how visual design can improve a site’s usability. We then started following his blog, Functioning Form, where he offers cogent discussions on all aspects of design. We’re thrilled he’s speaking at the upcoming User Interface 11 Conference.

Recently, UIE’s Joshua Porter managed to get a little of Luke’s time to answer some questions about the role of design, which we’re publishing in two parts. Here’s Part I:

UIE: Some people might consider the subtitle of your book, “A Visual Approach to Web Usability,” to be an oxymoron. What do you say when people ask: Isn’t usability mostly about actual usage and visuals mostly about looking good?

Luke Wroblewski: Well, let’s take a look at “actual usage.” When you’re interacting with a web site, you’re reading text, navigating menus, examining images, scanning lists, and filling in forms. The whole time you are using your eyes to make sense of what’s on the screen because all the elements that enable these interactions are presented to you visually (unless, of course, you are using a screen reader).

The way each element is presented tells you a lot about it: is it more or less important than other elements; is it similar or different from other elements; can you take action on it? This type of information helps you ascribe meaning to what you see on the screen.

As a result, you can use visual design to communicate key concepts to your users. By addressing the question “What is this?” we communicate usefulness. By addressing “How do I use it?” we communicate usability. By addressing “Why should I care?” we communicate desirability. Clearly this communication goes beyond mere styling and “looking good”.

When properly applied, visual design is all about communication. The better at communicating we are, the easier it is for our users to use and appreciate the web sites we design."   continued ...   (Via UIE)


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