One of the major factors currently influencing the user experience on a website is eliciting subconscious responses through site interaction.
It is important to understand that as web design is a functional design, beauty is not perceived from the design itself but from its usability.
The Bauhaus and Gestalt Schools of Thought
Trends come and go each year, however, it is possible to find their origins in established design principles dating back to the first half of the twentieth century, such as Bauhaus and Gestalt.
Gestalt first appeared in 1910, its main principle being that in a group of items, such as in web content, we perceive the whole rather than the constituent parts. This is based on understanding the principles of perception and human vision and the ability to interpret visual information as an understandable, meaningful and usable form.
Likewise, the Bauhaus school of thought, dating from 1919, also addresses this simplicity in functionality, and is a key factor in contemporary design, such as that of logos, in its use of clean lines, geometric shapes, logic and conciseness.
Using balanced space among all parts of a logo assists in its visibility, and white space is considered an important building block in functional design. Similarly with fonts. This emerged during the modernist and constructive ideals of Swiss Style graphic design and its pursuit for simplicity through uniformity, use of whitespace, grids, rhythm and its visualised structure of information.
This, in turn, led to a minimisation of the elements of style in the typography and content layout over an emphasis on texture and illustrations. And with Material design from Google and Flat design from Windows, these typography styles have once again become commonplace.
The Principle of CRAP
CRAP, or Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity, offers an easy, yet useful approach to design. Here's a brief summary of each point:
- Contrast focuses a user’s eyes on important functions – all design requiring a functional response is based on contrast because its difference in appearance clearly defines a call to action.
- Repetition is based on similar tasks with a similar function always having a consistent design, so users at all times know what the function of them is.
- Alignment entails everything lining up vertically and horizontally, making web design less disturbing on the eye. Its simplicity in design reduces the chance of usability error because it leads the user’s eye.
- Proximity defines unity, as mentioned earlier with Gestalt. If you place similar items close together, people perceive them as being related, making it easier for users to find what they are looking for.