We are back with our excursion to some useful basic principles when designing a website. In the previous two posts (Use Gestalt Laws to Improve your UX and Gestalt Laws: Optical illusions to improve your design) we talked about several Gestalt Laws and how it is convenient to implement or at least consider them before actually testing your website. This will be our last post on the topic, but before we come to a conclusion, we would like to introduce a few more Gestalt Laws: The Law of Simplicity, the Law of Symmetry, and last but not least the Law of Experience.
Law of Simplicity
The Law of Simplicity indicates that elements are always perceived in the most easiest way possible. Further, simplicity of the whole emphasizes the importance of striking features. This can be used as an advantage on a website. Keep it simple and the focus on what really matters. We tried to keep our website as simple and clean as possible, so we can focus on what we really want to communicate. Figure 1 shows an extract from one of our pages.
Law of Symmetry
This law comprises the fact the we prefer symmetric appearances over asymmetric ones. Symmetric objects or arrangements are associated with positive aspects such as stability, consistency and structure. Asymmetric arrangements on the other hand give a rather negative impression, like something is wrong, missing, or out of balance. Of course a website can never be completely symmetric, which is not at all the idea, but it is possible to pay attention to the perceived symmetry. So symmetry does not necessarily have to be created by content, but also by aesthetic elements such as color or design elements. For example, the head of the BBC website uses an abstract picture of a globe in the background to create a harmonious and balanced appearance.
Law of Experience
Another Gestalt Law that can be quite useful is the Law of Experience. It explains that we can expect others to use their prior knowledge in order to understand certain elements. A common example is related to letters. If parts of a letter, that are no main characteristics, are removed, we are still able to identify the letter because we are still able to identify the letter because we have learned and memorized what the letter is supposed to look like. Another example is that we for example skip spelling mistakes because we have memorized a word as a whole and do not look at every letter specifically.
Looking back at past three posts that focused on the topic of Gestalt Laws, we discussed quite a few laws and we were able to link all but one of them to real examples. There are certainly even more such laws, or principles, out there. Some might be more useful for designing a website, others less. But in general, we can conclude that Gestalt Laws do give some good advise, such as how to group elements that belong together, how to point the attention to elements that are important, or how to create an impression of balance and stability.
If you already have a website that you would like to test, scan it through, keeping the Gestalt Laws in mind that we discussed. If you already think that for example elements that are related, seem to fall apart, it might be a good idea to change something about their position before testing whether or not users perceive them as a single unit. A lot of times, the design of a website contributes massively to the perception of the content.
Also, you can specifically test whether or not you applied certain Gestalt Laws successfully. Do you want to find out if your users recognize certain content as a unit? Or if they think whether your overall design appears harmonically or as falling apart? Or if they actually focus their attention on the elements you want them to focus on? Set up a Usabilla test in only a few minutes and find out!