WebGuild’s Interview with Luke Wroblewski

Ashley McKee

June 8th, 2007

If you’re as crazy about Luke Wroblewski as we are (as evidenced by Brian’s previous post), or if you’re just crazy about visual design and usability, you’ll definitely want to read the interview he recently did with Reshma Kumar, Vice President of WebGuild. Much of what he talks about can be applied to the 60 best standards compliant web site designs I blogged about earlier in the week:

Q: Although there are established design and usability best practices and standards, there are also varying standards within companies’ definitions of good design and usability and the role design should play in the product development process. Some companies value form as well as function whereas others appear to value function only. Is form still a valuable element in usability?

A: There are two strongly interconnected ways to utilize form: personality & visual organization.

Personality–or visceral design if you prefer-is defined by the subjective reaction people have when viewing a product. It’s the combination of fonts, colors, images, shapes, and patterns that tells you which laundry detergent is tough on stains and which one provides a delicate touch. Though this aspect of form predominantly enforces a brand message for products it can also have an influence on usability. To substantiate that point, Don Norman has recently exposed research that indicates “attractive things work better”. To quote “When you wash and wax a car, it drives better, doesn’t it? Or at least feels like it does.” So there’s a corollary between aesthetics and ease of use.

For many people, the role of visual design ends there as they only consider form for “making things pretty”. As a result, they overlook the crucial role of visual organization.

Visual organization is the deliberate prioritization of meaning within a visual design. It’s the process of applying the principles behind perception–how we make sense of what we see- to illuminate relationships between content and actions. Through applications of visual contrast, designers can communicate the steps required to complete a task, the relationships between information, or the hierarchy between interface elements. Since the majority of people are only able to interact with a Web application through its presentation layer, visual organization is a key component for successful interface designs. It essentially tells people how to use things. Personality, on the other hand, tends to focus on why.

You can read the entire interview here: Interview with Luke Wroblewski, Senior Principal Designer,Yahoo! Inc.

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