How Visual Design Contributes to an Engaging UX

Visual design is a crucial part of UX because it can produce a pleasant application experience and improve features or functionality that need to be more user-appropriate and well-made.

Don Norman writes about the research in his book Emotional Design: Why we Love (or Hate) Everyday Things, where he found that “…the degree of system’s aesthetics increased the post-use judgements of both aesthetics and usability, although the degree of actual usability had no such effect.”

To rephrase, aesthetics have as much of an impact on the user experience as functionality. The idea that visual design could be more important than usability doesn’t sound right. It shouldn’t surprise us. Humans are attracted to things and people who find them attractive. Apps and sites are more likely to give a beautiful application the benefit of aesthetics.

What is the attraction?

That is to say; it’s an unanswerable question.

Before we can discuss the aesthetics of the user interface, a question must be answered. Has the term “objectively appealing” ever been defined? As defined by Pythagorean believers, beauty is “a manifestation of harmonious, mathematical relations such as the golden section,” an issue philosophers have debated since at least Pythagoras. Many researchers and philosophers attempted to quantify beauty’s value in the years after that.

In the eyes of some researchers, the things that appeal to our sense of beauty also happen to be healthy. Hence, we find healthy people “unattractive,” while we find aesthetically beautiful things like berries because they suit us. Although that hypothesis has significant flaws (see the attractiveness of toxic frogs), it may have some validity.

On the other hand, many believe beauty is a product of cultural norms. Consider that most American kids watch Disney movies at an early age, teaching them that villains and bad guys are ugly, but heroes and good guys are attractive. The media we consume daily form our perceptions of what is considered attractive here and now; nevertheless, in 10 years, many articles of clothing, styles of facial hair, and even body types that are considered attractive today will seem laughable and sad. The standards of beauty that a society holds vary as its values evolve.

Well, let’s apply that to user experience design. Some appealing interface or site structure features may be those we naturally identify with ease of use. Web design ideas and graphic elements that seem alluring today may have lost their lustre a few months or years ago. There was a time when comic sans were the standard, and flash splash pages were the mark of a well-designed website.

Alternatively, Voltaire believed that beauty cannot be defined, which may have inspired the idiom “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” In the eyes of empiricists, beauty merely reflects the person who finds it attractive and shares similar qualities with pleasure.

Visual Design in UX

We may now explore the function of visual design in UX with the realisation that there is no single “absolutely beautiful” aesthetic. After all, there’s more to it than just aesthetics.

One can’t just compare graphic design and interface design. According to, visual design is the “strategic implementation of images, colours, typefaces, and other aspects” to improve a design or interaction and pique users’ interest. Interaction design concerns how well a product or service helps users complete a specific job. The visual design captures consumers’ attention by leading them to the appropriate functionality, prioritising tasks on a page through size, colour, and whitespace, and even boosting brand trust through visual cues.

Visual design is an increasingly popular field combining graphic and UX design elements. Graphic design is often the design of static images or visuals, with the proviso that these fields are ever-evolving. The visual design is quite balanced, including static images and visuals to enhance communication and usability. As a result of its incorporation of interaction and user interface design, user experience design emphasizes open lines of communication.

Users’ perceptions of a screen’s contents can be profoundly influenced by its aesthetic design (pun intended). Consumers have grown accustomed to the idea that aesthetically pleasing screens have higher utility, usability, and humanity levels.

The Correlation

The user’s experience can be altered by changes made to the visual design.

Google’s Director of Product Management, Luke Wroblewski, has devoted most of his career to studying the links between aesthetics and behaviour. His 2008 talk, “Communicating with Visual Hierarchy,” elaborates on the significance of visual design in user experience. To paraphrase, he claims that the following are aided by the use of visual hierarchy:

  1. communicate messages,
  2. illuminate actions, and
  3. organise information.

He offers a wealth of advice to help designers think critically about where and how they present data. A visually appealing hierarchy is also an easily navigable one. Still, little has changed in the seven years since then about how little attention is paid to visual design in UX.

A definition, please. Is there such a thing as objective beauty, or do some people find Microsoft aesthetically pleasing? Or is aesthetic appeal a luxury rather than a prerequisite? The user’s experience can be altered by changes made to the visual design. But it’s optional to get the job done. Users’ opinions of it will always be inextricably linked to the product’s success. Indeed, but how so? It is the million-dollar question.

Visitors will give an unsightly site the benefit of the doubt if their experience is positive, much like they might with a well-dressed job candidate at an interview. Users are more likely to give a site a second opportunity if they find it aesthetically pleasing, whether through more “conventional” design elements or more “intelligent” ones.

What does it mean for UX Designers?

You can only rely on something other than aesthetics to redeem a dreadful encounter.

Features or functionality appropriate for the user or poorly created can only be improved by the most appealing aesthetics. And remember aesthetics! There is rivalry in every industry, and good graphic design can help customers choose your app over others that provide similar features. 

For aspiring user experience designers, here is a best of:

  1. Stay consistent. Inconsistency may ruin even the most stunning aesthetic. In this case, a person’s emotional reaction to the site’s design will directly impact their perception of its aesthetic appeal.
  1. Test visual concepts as well as paper prototypes. Visuals have a powerful effect on us, and effective branding may persuade us to trust and engage with a company. People often say they are “looking” at a website when actually “interacting” with it.
  1. Stay focused on trends. For a good reason, a little black dress has been a staple in women’s wardrobes for over a century. Simply put, it’s easy. It needs to be more spotless. That’s a timeless piece, for sure. A straightforward, clean, and classic aesthetic will also outlast fleeting fashions. Certain features of flat design (for example) are likely to be around, but many apps are predicted to appear “so 2015” in a few years.