June 22nd, 2006
Somewhere along the line, usability professionals became branded as people who don’t “get” visual design. Their reputation has become one of only thinking about the functional, usage-oriented aspects of design, without considering how something looks.
Maybe it’s because many usability people don’t have training in visual arts and design. Heck, the only thing I can draw is blood. A quick survey of usability web sites shows many of them are not at the high-end of the artistic scale. (Of course, too many of them aren’t very usable, either.)
Similarly, within the usability community there’s a similar perception that many visual designers don’t understand how things are used. There are those who believe the visual designers know how to make things pretty, but at the expense of usability.
From these perceptions comes the belief that the two communities are in contention with each other. That you have to “find a balance” between usability and visual design to produce a great design.
But is this belief correct? Is it about finding a balance between two opposites? Or is it about finding the synergies between two disparate skillsets? Could it be a combination of usability and visual design would produce an effect better than either can do on their own?
UIE’s Josh Porter interviewed Luke Wroblewski, author of Site-Seeing: A Visual Approach to Web Usability and UI11 speaker, on the topic of where usability meets visual design. Luke’s answers were so thorough, we had to break the interview into two sections. In this issue of UIEtips, we present Part I of the interview.
Are you seeing benefits when you combine visual design with usability in your designs? What challenges are you facing trying to make that happen? Join the discussion below.
Luke Wroblewski will be presenting his full-day seminar, Site Seeing: Communicating Successfully with Visual Design, at the upcoming User Interface 11 Conference in Cambridge, MA on October 11. You can read about Luke’s session, along with the other great full-day seminars, here.
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