Chapter 9. Making It Look Good:Visual Style and Aesthetics

In 2002, a research group discovered something interesting. The Stanford Web Credibility Project[1] set out to learn what causes people to trust or distrust web sites, and much of what they found made intuitive sense: company reputation, customer service, sponsorships, and ads all helped users decide whether or not a web site was credible.

But the most important factor—number one on their list—was the appearance of the web site. Users did not trust sites that looked amateurish. Sites that made the effort to craft a nice, professionally designed look made a lot more headway with users, even if those users had few other reasons to trust the site.

Here's another data point. Donald Norman, one of the best-known gurus of interaction design, concluded that "positive affect enhances creative, breadth-first thinking whereas negative affect focuses cognition, enhancing depth-first processing and minimizing distractions." He added that "Positive affect makes people more tolerant of minor difficulties and more flexible and creative in finding solutions."[2] Interfaces actually become more usable when people enjoy using them.

Looking good matters.

For many chapters now, we've talked about the structure, form, and behavior of an application; now we'll focus more on its "skin" or its "look-and-feel." Chapter 4, Layout, discussed some graphic design basics. That chapter covered visual hierarchy, visual flow, focal points, and the Gestalt ...

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