Here we take a look at how to achieve a healthy balance in your designs by working with visual clutter.
Visual clutter is a quite interesting topic and has a lot to do with our lives as well, and not only with designing for digital flipbooks. However, in the design industry, decluttering is imperative because it helps drawing attention to important elements.
When you have a limited amount of time to impress new visitors or to convince an individual to buy something from you, having many distractions in your design proves to be problematic in most cases.
This free eBook about designing for digital is a great place to start if you need to brush up on your designing methods.
You'll learn about:
- The power of images
- How to remove visual clutter
- Effective Call To Action buttons
What's visual clutter?
Do you know how sometimes you have no energy or time to clean up at home for several weeks? It happens every once in a while even to the best of us.
That is exactly how clutter on the web works.
When designing something, we keep adding to it until it becomes too much. If it is software, we keep adding features to a limited amount of users that end up not being used.
If it's a website, we keep adding information that no one needs. If it's an online catalog, we keep adding details about products with tiny font size, because it has to be somewhere.
However, just as in real life, at some point in time, people get fed up with not cleaning their apartment and just do it out of an impulse.
That is how individuals on digital media often act when they look at things where there is much visual clutter. In an environment where distractions are always just a click away, you only need to get a few things wrong, and your users will leave you.
Visual clutter does nothing good for you.
You'd think that shooting much information at your users should be enough to convince them to buy.
However, that is not how it works. Actually, experts often speak about how giving out less information improves your chances.
Related post: Creating & Designing Interactive Online Publications
Design for readers
This is an important factor to keep in mind.
When you design for someone else, you need to put your needs aside and start to think about the others. Whether you create a website, digital catalogs, a mobile app or any sort of online publishing, the user's needs should be prioritized.
We live in a fast-paced world where everyone is busy. People do not have time to read the additional information written with small letters.
The good thing about the digital world is that you can still put this information there, but without bothering the user.
For this purpose, you can use pop-ups activated by icons, buttons or simple links - but there are more ways of doing it.
This creates a much easier and quicker flow for the readers. Let's imagine they visit your online catalog where you sell computers and smartphones. Each and every one of them has its technical specifications that you need to show, but you could also show examples of pictures taken with a specific phone, video reviews, an overview of pros and cons, a comparison table and a set of photos of the actual product.
How do you show all of these without making the design look like a war zone?
A good example is the PC Republic, one of our demo iPapers. On the spread, you can see above there are only two products with a short description and a list of features at the bottom, but if you look closely, you can find several blue icons that hide even more information.
By clicking on them, users can read about the key features of both products, video reviews about them and other things - all these appear in a pop-up on top of the iPaper.
The information is technically there, whether the readers need it or not. The buttons are, but not the whole text. If the full text from the pop-ups had to be on this spread, it would have been very, very small - and we all know how frustrating it is trying to read that.
Also, the designer would have had to sacrifice the big images, which we already know, is a step in the wrong direction.
How do you remove clutter?
As we've learned so far, visual clutter gives nothing but problems on your website and in your online publications, so let's learn how to get rid of it. Keep all these tips in mind next time you design for digital!
Tip #1: Prioritize
One of the most important steps you can take is to prioritize and decide what to leave out. In the example above, the designer decided these three things to be the most important: the history of the city, the nightlife, and the beach. However, all this information was difficult to show if he also wanted to present the readers will a full-blown image of the travel destination.
The designer decided that the picture is the most important element in this spread, so he made it big and added a title to it. Then the rest of the information was packed in three different pop-ups, equally important, to the right of the spread. This way the readers can get a quick idea of what the atmosphere is in the city and they can also choose what they want to read more about.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that often, as in the example above, designers have to offer much extra information to the user. But not all the users want to read about everything. You want to create interactive publications, and by using the technique illustrated above, readers choose what they want to read and ignore what they do not wish to read. It is a win-win.
Want to try it out yourself?
TIP #2: Minimize
Once you've prioritized and decided what the most important is, you also decide what to exclude.
Chances are, there is something you can leave out because it may not be necessary and important to the reader. A good start would be to eliminate useless text (or hide it under a pop-up).
Small text is a turn-off, and remember that not all have the same screen size on their device. Make sure you never have more than two fonts on the same page - usually one for the headline and one for the rest.
Remove unnecessary icons.
If you do all these, you are already further ahead than many others will ever come.
TIP #3: Design
It is always a good idea to wait for the design phase until you've prioritized and minimized. Once you have a list of all the things you want to show, you can start designing. The reason why you should wait with this is that, once you start creating a layout, it will take much more time to modify primary elements in case you decide later they are not important.
It just makes more sense to choose what's important first and then create the layout.
Removing visual clutter from your digital design is something that should be a top priority because it is something that makes a huge difference for the end-product. These principles apply to all kind of media but are vital when creating digital interfaces for users.
We've created this ebook with even more great tips and tricks about how to design for digital. It's a huge part of your online strategy, so be sure to do it right!
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