The importance of clarity in UX design

How visual clarity and aesthetics can affect the entire user experience

In terms of design, times have changed a lot since the advent of web design in the 90s of the last century. The particular technology and its applications have become more stable. Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) has been deeply researched and designers have expanded their understanding of this issue. User perceptions of what the web experience should be has also been updated.

This is an evolutionary path for the development of technology that has become widely available and used throughout the world. It seems that those who have failed to evolve appropriately in this volatile digital ecosystem have been pushed aside. Of course, the same fate awaited poorly designed websites that provide a low-quality experience.

Clarity in web design

One of the most important components of modern web design, which sometimes goes beyond the scope of discussion, is clarity. In my opinion, it directly affects the perception of design as literate and intuitive. The impact of website design quality on user experience has been extensively studied in countless case studies across the Internet.

The challenge is to take extraordinarily complex things and make them simpler and clearer.

– Robert Greenberg

In many cases, simplicity and clarity (intelligibility) are two terms that are used to describe the same thing. Greenberg’s quote covers both concepts surprisingly.

To summarize, we can say that clarity is related to the transfer of information and its quantity. Therefore, it includes the concept of simplicity.

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By the term “clarity” I mean how accessible and understandable the information on this web page is. Accordingly, this covers everything from navigation and basic interaction system to copywriting and interface design.

I became interested in the topic of clarity in design when I joined the VisualEyes team in the fall of 2019 and immediately began to delve deeper into the topic.

In this article, I will try to break down the meaning of visual clarity as a subset of overall clarity.

Visual clarity

Apple vs. Huawei

Visual clarity is a measure of how effectively a visual design prioritizes and communicates information. This is determined by all the components of the web page that can act as visual stimuli. Clarity enables meaningful, hassle-free interaction… It also plays an important role in the perceived aesthetics of the site.

The ability to simplify means eliminating the unnecessary so that you can talk about the necessary.

– Hans Hofmann

You can find out about how visual clarity affects website interactions by reading my previous article. How Airbnb Manages User Experience with Landing Page Design… In it, I tried to identify the elements that made the Airbnb landing page clear and informative.

Achieving visual clarity through thoughtful decisions ensures that the user’s cognitive resources are not depleted. Designers should strive to create a seamless experience and reduce the burden on the user interacting with technology.

In short, I will try to find answers to the following three questions:

  • How visual clarity relates to aesthetics
  • How quickly people appreciate overall aesthetics
  • How aesthetics affect the perception of usability

Clarity brings beauty

The importance of clarity in UX design
Notion landing page

Visual complexity – in our paradigm the opposite of clarity – is defined as the level of detail or confusion in an image. In web design, complexity is mainly represented by the perceived number of objects, clutter, empty space, symmetry, organization, and variety of colors.

Investigating the impact of visual complexity on human cognition, Eleni Mihailidou, Simon Harper and Sean Behhofer concluded that the visual complexity of a page negatively affects a user’s page rating. It depends on how organized, clear and beautiful the page will appear.

The researchers tested and then confirmed the following three hypotheses:

  1. The number of visual elements (stimuli) is positively correlated with perceived complexity. Therefore, the more visual elements there are, the higher the difficulty.
  2. The number of visual elements is negatively correlated with the perceived aesthetics. This means that than less visual stimuli, the better aesthetics
  3. Visual complexity is directly related to aesthetic qualities. Analysis of the data showed that more clean, beautiful web pages were also perceived to be simpler (lower visual difficulty score).

Ultimately, complexity can be said to negatively impact perceived aesthetics.… Therefore, we designers must find a balance between aesthetic appearance and visual complexity.

In a matter of milliseconds

Visual clarity plays an important role in the user experience as the user appreciates it in the very first seconds of interaction.

Although it only takes a small fraction of the total interaction time, instant cognitive responses to visual stimulation are necessary for the user to evaluate the experience.

An academic experiment conducted by the Human-Oriented Technology Lab at Carleton University suggests that aesthetic judgment (or visual appeal) precedes other cognitive functions, thus influencing the totality of subsequent experiences. In the results of the same experiment, it is noted that the period of time during which first impressions are formed is only 50 milliseconds

Aesthetic-usability effect

The usability aesthetic effect, now the law of UX design, allows us to dive deeper into the relationship between visual appeal and user experience.

The aforementioned effect, demonstrated in the study by Kurosu and Kashimura, describes the paradox that people perceive more aesthetically pleasing designs as more user-friendly and intuitive. Japanese researchers have come to the conclusion that the aesthetics of any interface strongly affects users, even when assessing the actual functionality of the system. This implies that perceived usability is less correlated with real usability when compared to the perceived aesthetics (attractiveness) of the interface.

The importance of clarity in UX design
More aesthetic results also feel more comfortable

In terms of balance, aesthetics contributes to the perceived, not the actual, usability of the system.

A common and correct interpretation of the usability aesthetic effect is as follows: “Users tend to forgive the system for usability shortcomings when they find it aesthetically pleasing.”

This suggests that designers (as well as the entire product team) should strive to improve the aesthetic aspect of product development at the expense of usability.

Interface design can hide systemic inconsistencies and usability deficiencies

User experience development

The importance of clarity in UX design

From the above analysis, it can be concluded that:

  • Visual clarity is directly related to perceived aesthetics in a positive way.
  • The assessment of the aesthetic level of a web page is completed in less than a second.
  • Perceived aesthetics affect practical usability.

“People ignore designs that ignore people”

– Frank Chimero

Putting it all together, you can understand the importance of simple and straightforward design:

Firstly, it will ensure that due to poor quality aesthetics, there will be no negative bias towards subsequent experience

Secondly, it can make the usability of the system attractiveeven if it isn’t. Thus, visual design has a huge impact on the entire user experience during interaction.

Thanks for reading!

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