Quite commonly people ask me: isn’t it better to make something usable instead of just fancy? Should we focus on visual or usability. Well, these two go hand in hand in product design, to be honest.
Recently Jonny Czar, currently product designer at N26, wrote an article on the matter that explains brilliantly The power of visual in product design - https://uxdesign.cc/@jonnyczar. I’ll summarize the key takeaways for you (and for myself) in the next few lines:
0. It’s in our DNA
The first reason comes from our DNA. Eric Jensen, in his book Brain Based Learning, shows that 40% of the brain nerves are connected to the retina; more neurons are devoted to vision than all the other senses combined, and probably 90% of everything that comes to our mind is triggered by visual stimuli. In addition, recent studies show that approximately 65% of the population are visual learners, preferring to study and engage with information when linked to visual elements.
1. It speeds up data perception
It happens very fast. According to a study by S.Thorpe, D.Fize and C. Marlot called The processing speed in the human visual system, it takes only 150 milliseconds for the brain to process an image and another 100 milliseconds to understand its meaning.
A recent study of 60 participants (Icon recognition speed in interactions in digital interfaces) reviled that that icons illustrating real objects were more recognizable than symbolic and subjective icons (e.g. using a clock to represent the alarm icon - see image below).
2. People can retain visual data for much longer
In a study by Roger Shepard called Learning 10000 pictures, it was shown that an audience exposed to 612 images for about 6 seconds achieved a 98% hit rate when asked to remember them in two-alternative tests. Compared with similar tests to remember words and short sentences, the rate drops to 88%.
3. It triggers pleasure
When our mind reaches a quick understanding by being exposed to a small cognitive effort, our body reacts positively, triggering a sense of pleasure. This is what’s shown by a study called “Mind at ease puts a smile on the face” by researchers Piotr Winkielman and John T. Cacioppo.
4. It guides attention
Eye-tracking studies show that readers pay more attention to information loaded with visual elements.
They spend even more time looking at them than reading the text itself when images are relevant (see example below).
5. It makes it universal
Lastly, icons, colors, illustrations, and other types of visual components in the interface can make an app or website more accessible, especially when it’s used by people from different countries.
Thus, we can say that the use of icons improves overall comprehension. In addition, images push the boundaries of perception for people who are affected by text recognition disorders, such as dyslexia, have difficulty reading or who can’t read.
Source: The power of visual in product design