How to use Visual Design to improve User Experience
Google or Apple? WhatsApp or Telegram? Every product we choose defines us and reflects our identity. So then, an excellent visual design becomes a strategic advantage. We talk about this with Paolo Tripodi e Alberto Fontana, designers from our team.
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Paolo Tripodi: Welcome to the Moze podcast, a space for dialogue and technical insight into the development of new digital products. I’m Paolo, one of the studio’s designer, and today we’re talking about Visual Design, that is the purely visual, sensory aspect of a digital product, in order to understand how this influences the User Experience of that product. Before delving into this subject, it is perhaps worth taking a step back to clarify two things. The first is that by User Experience we mean the overall experience a user has of a product, whether physical or digital, from the moment they discover and purchase it right up to the user’s satisfaction after using it, which will take longer or shorter depending on the product. The second is that when we happen to be particularly impressed by the user experience of a new app, for example, it is worth emphasising that this is the result of a team effort. Something involving several disciplines (marketing, software developers, graphic and product designers) each with their own different aspects, including Visual Design. To explore this very broad but fundamentally important topic, with me today is Moze’s new designer, Alberto. Hi Alberto!
Alberto Fontana: Hi Paolo and hello everyone!
Paolo: Without claiming to be exhaustive on such a vast subject, Alberto and I will try to identify the role of the visual aspect in a product’s User Experience. So Alberto, to help us with this, we can start by analysing what happens if we completely neglect this aspect when approaching the design of our product.
Alberto: Sure, if we think about when as users/customers (when shopping online / using an app, etc), for example, we immediately notice if the visual aspect of the product has been neglected. Even if we don’t have a clear sense of why, we immediately have the feeling that something is failing our expectations.
Paolo: Of course, we intuitively realise that something is wrong….
Alberto: Exactly, for instance, when we are looking for a new product, even if it is not necessarily digital. Now… since the methodology and choice process can vary a lot from person to person, depending on their needs or habits, I could use a recent purchase of mine as an example: I was looking for a vacuum cleaner; making my choice was a very long process and resulted in me becoming a guru on the subject before finally making the purchase. After studying various vacuum cleaners and evaluating their features, of all those with the same features, I couldn’t resist going for the most attractive one! So, in the case of this purchase, out of all the products I assessed to have the same functionality, the aesthetics of the product was the fundamental element in the choice. The reason is very simple: my choice was greatly influenced by the thought of inadvertently leaving an ugly vacuum cleaner in plain sight… but then some aspects of this vacuum cleaner didn’t work exactly as I thought they would… but that’s another story…
Paolo: Very straightforward, in other words, having a nice-looking vacuum cleaner means you can leave it in the living room without worrying about making a bad impression on any guests.
Alberto: Exactly. There’s another aspect that’s just as important: every product we choose defines us, reflecting our identity in some way. Intentionally looking after the visual appearance of a product therefore helps the buyer in this respect too… thinking about the world of digital products, an example would be choosing between WhatsApp or Telegram, or between Apple and Google.
Paolo: Interesting, so aesthetics become a matter of empathy… which is why, I would add, you need to know the people who are going to use the product.
Alberto: Exactly, empathy towards your customers or users. Although it’s often a split-second decision, when I first see a product, the first thing I notice is its appearance, its shape and only then its functionality.
Paolo: Sure… pretty obvious… except, as Alberto and I have often said while working together, we can’t exactly measure empathy in the same way as the room temperature, so how do we address that?
Alberto: For sure, what we can do is to capture as much information as possible in order to understand the interests and desires of our users, so that we can design the aesthetics, the visual appearance of a product, a website, an application, in order to get closer to their feelings, their needs and perceptions. The more we meet real needs and requirements, the more effective we can be visually and in terms of communication!
Paolo: I agree… and ultimately create a better User Experience…
Alberto: Yes, that’s right…
Paolo: Very interesting… when you say “capture more information about users”, what exactly do you mean? How can we and our listeners collect this information in practice?
Alberto: Well, actually, we can start by designing the visual aspect, the look and feel of our product, by gathering information about the needs and aspirations of the people who will use it or will need it. Firstly, this information may come from the product team’s direct experience with their users, perhaps through surveys, feedback from customer support… If this knowledge is not enough or if the team is struggling to organise it effectively, it may be worth starting the design with a preliminary round of User Research, in which users are interviewed to better understand these aspects…
Paolo: Here again, I couldn’t agree more with Alberto. I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that at Moze we’re doing more and more User Research and we actually started our podcast by dedicating the first episode to this topic, so I encourage those who want to know more to listen to it. Coming back to us, Alberto, to recap, as far as the User Experience of a product is concerned, on the one hand it’s the visual aspect that reaches our senses before we even understand exactly what it is, and on the other that very brief moment can be decisive for the user. That’s why knowing our user well is fundamental to understanding how to attract their attention.
Alberto: Exactly, I would finish by saying that in that brief moment we are also somewhat pre-empting what the User Experience will be after the purchase… if a product has an unattractive brand or appearance at first glance, as a user I will intuitively expect the same afterwards. In contrast, when the look and feel and the shape are designed with the user in mind – let’s think again of Apple, Google or Dyson, going back to the example of the vacuum cleaner – we are at least laying the foundations for a quality user experience.
Paolo: Thank you very much to Alberto for helping us to explore in a simple way such a vast and complex theme as the one we have dealt with today; at this point we are curious to know how others approach the more aesthetic, visual, sensorial themes of a digital product. So we encourage you to share your opinion or your point of view by writing to us on mozestudio.com. Thanks again to Alberto and see you next time.
Alberto: Thanks Paolo, goodbye everyone!