Visual Design Methods for Interactive Apps

April 21, 2007 at 4:03 pm | Posted in Reading | 2 Comments

Vanderdonckt’s reading is filled with numerous considerations for website development – all ultimately geared to usability.  The guidelines are simply there for the reader to absorb and consider when displaying information on the Web.

Given that he holds degrees in mathematics and computer science I am reminded of TC 502 (now supplanted by TC 511) – a graduate course I took more than two years ago here.  In that course, the focus was how the user interacts with both text and visual displays.  There the focus was on cognitive psychology and how the mind responds to structure through text and visuals. 

While there may be traditional and non-traditional audiences as noted by Vanderdonckt, there is enough research on the topic of visual design to suggest that unity, from the designer’s perspective, implies consistency and offers the predictability a user expects.  Our exercise last week reviewing different websites brought that home.

As we looked at Sideways, Grey’s Anatomy and IMDB, we all reached varying conclusions, depending on our familiarity with the site or the subject matter.  There was dead space, clutter and distraction IMO on different sites and, perhaps, a difference in audience – i.e., traditional v. non-traditional in Vanderdonckt’s terms, but when consistency and predictability are lacking for a user, the purpose of the site can be lost.  I guess we’re back to journalistic style – if you can’t capture the attention of the reader with the headline, maybe photo and cutline, and the first few sentences, the reader moves on.

Selecting the right visual objects, the layout and the purpose of the site are the ultimate goal of a web designer – to entice those who either seek out or happen upon a site to spend more time and learn about the content.


1. If dissociation is a visual technique for web design, doesn’t it ultimately rely on the user’s ability to associate the various visual elements to create comprehension, and therefore, unity of design is the overriding consideration?

2. Should visual patterns within a site reflect the logic of the site since users attach meaning to the visual patterns they detect?

3.  What can we say about the layout design for the best cheeseburgers?  Yes, Dick’s is on the list. . .



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  1. Hey your questions are great! Obviously some sites only want to attract specific “clientele” but the varying conclusions we all reached on the websites last week is very telling. There seems to be a huge diversity in how people in class use the web and that little exercise quickly focused on those differences.

    It would be interesting to know if there are any sites universally considered good design. I doubt it. But I agree that providing unity and consistency is a good beginning towards giving the user what they want. A beginning but then its time to add the content.

  2. Ow! I clicked on the cheeseburger site link and made the mistake of trying to read it. Not sure my eyes will recover by this evening…

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