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This is a long standing argument between designers and usability experts which may not be solved in this article but I will attempt to clear the muddy waters and find common ground in creating great digital experiences. With all the jargon coming from the tech world these days, we must first define visual design and usability.
Visual Design is a method of creating a user interface with focus on creativity and imagination. In visual design the aesthetics of the interface are the most important component in its creation.
Usability is a study of how a user interacts with the interface of a website or application. Usability focuses on the usefulness of the interface and how proficient and successful a user is while completing tasks within the interface.
Neighbors with different Tasks
Designers and usability experts are neighbors who both work on the same project with very different approaches at times. I was on a website of a favorite boutique retailer recently and while I’m always happy with their products look within the design of the site the navigation, lack of filtering options and checkout process makes the experience cumbersome and time consuming. This is a classic case of design at the expense (or complete disregard) for usability. If I didn’t love these products so much they would have lost me as a customer beyond the first purchase. You can find this across the web on so many sites.
On the flip side, there are sites like Amazon and Craigslist, which has decided to focus primarily on usability and conversion with a serious lack of design. Sites like this are extremely easy to navigate and use but look like they haven’t been updated in years. Brining these two disciplines together gives the user the type of experience that will bring them back time and again.
Coming together to create amazing experiences
These two neighbors can feel like they live on other sides of town but when they come together it can make digital magic. Beautiful applications can give the user an immersive experience while interacting with the application can create a user for life. Bringing these two disciplines together for a project takes planning a leadership. This is no better exemplified than in the 888 Ladies team Making of Treasure Fair. “An endeavor like the creation of Treasure Fair involves dozens of people across numerous teams in a multidisciplinary organization like 888: creative teams, product management, development, QA, marketing, and more.”
This argument will undoubtedly continue to rage between creatives and usability folks but hopefully we can start to bridge the gap towards a more centered approach when creating digital products that the end consumer will love.