Visual Aesthetics in Web Design

Visual aesthetics plays an important role in the way a design is perceived and, therefore, in its acceptance. This observation persists, irrespective of the medium on which a design is presented, be it paper or computer screen. For example, research over the years has suggested that aesthetics is closely linked to how usable users judge a website. It has also been found, together with other design attributes, to be crucial to how users perceive and learn information as well as how they judge the credibility of a website. Similarly, it has been found that the best predictor of users’ overall impression about a website is its perceived beauty and such judgment is usually instant.

The aesthetics of a website has also been found to be a strong determinant of users’ satisfaction and pleasure and therefore the judgment of whether or not a website is appealing and easy to use. For example, harmonious designs (i.e., those typically judged by users to have high aesthetic quality) engage users and give them the sense of order and visual balance, while disharmonious designs are often found to be uninteresting and chaotic. The implication from these research findings is that although aesthetics does not replace content or make bad content good, it goes a long way in determining whether or not a website gets a second look.

Many factors are said to contribute to the judgment of aesthetics. In their research papers, Moshagen and Thielsch, for example, define the following:

  • Colorfulness, which is defined in terms of the selection, placement, and combination of colors, has been identified to be one of the four core dimensions of websites aesthetics. Color schemes, discussed in Chapter 9, are a major contributor to this.
  • Simplicity, which relates to Gestalt’s principle of using simple, easily meaningful, and well-structured form or layout to achieve a good design.
  • Diversity, which relates to the quality of variety, creativity, novelty, visual richness, interestingness, and dynamics.
  • Craftsmanship, which relates to whether a website is designed with skill and adequate consideration, using up-to-date technologies.

There is also an 18-item questionnaire or instrument called Visual Aesthetics of Website Inventory (VisAWI) by Moshagen and Thielsch, with which these factors can be measured to evaluate the aesthetics of a website. Some guidelines on how to address colorfulness and craftsmanship have already been dealt with in the previous two parts of this book. Colorfulness was addressed in Chapter 9 and craftsmanship in various other HTML and CSS chapters. Simplicity and diversity are looked at in this part.

Source: Sklar David (2016), HTML: A Gentle Introduction to the Web’s Most Popular Language, O’Reilly Media; 1st edition.

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