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Mrinal Kanti Rai

The Purist

In Defense of Visual Design1

Good visual design is pristine. It evokes emotions and creates a lasting impression. There is something mystical yet certain about visual design. Everyone likes visual design, but a few understand its importance to create great experiences. It’s a common observation that a lot of usability professionals tend to ignore the value of visual design, dismissing it as low priority, unwarranted and has low value proposition.

While there is no denying that usability is important, but it's the visual design that pulls people into the website first. One cannot test the usability by looking at the website, but visual design is about that first impression.

Research shows that2 users form opinions about design quality within in a time frame ranging from 17ms to 50ms. A few milliseconds are not enough to assess the usability but good enough to assess the design quality. Surprisingly, the impression about the good visual design also affects the impression about the usability & performance. Study shows that people perceive attractive things to be more usable than unattractive3.

Being observant scholar of persuasive design for a significant number of years, I can safely claim that design quality also enhances Trust. In that sense, visual design plays an important part in building Trust in the site and consequently in the brand.

While bad usability in a website may stop users from exploring the functions, features and choices in a long run but with a bad visual design, user may not enter the site at all.

  1. Rephrasing book title ‘In defense of Globalization’ by Jagdish Bhagwati’.

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