User Experience

Using Gestalt Principles in Web Design to Improve UX

A good grasp of Psychology and a thorough understanding of the Gestalt principles are essential for designers looking to deliver great user experiences.

In the following video, Mustafa, Design Advocate at Google, and Sven Laqua, head of UX at Digital Science discuss the prevailing environment in the world of design, and design tools in particular.


Design tools and apps have taken great strides. They have democratised designing allowing people without a background in design to put-together stunning websites and apps in a short span of time.

However, this is also a cause for concern. There are many instances where people without a deeper understanding of design create something that looks impressive at first glance, but often falters in other aspects. Focusing on superficial attributes while ignoring important facets such as Visual Hierarchies and Information Architecture during the design process can lead to a sub-optimal user experience. Despite all the advancements in design tools, they can’t quite substitute the value brought in by the invisible aspects of design.

With substantial research conducted on eye-tracking, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and UX, it is agreed that visual attention is a limited resource. Thus it is imperative to design in a way that all needless distractions are weeded out and the user’s eye is guided carefully where the designer wants it to go.

Optimum Design and Avoiding Ambiguities

Let’s take the example of a design where a button when hovered on, begins to glow. It makes sense because it conveys intent by visually confirming the selection happening. Contrast this with Google Calendar which uses the same animation, but changes the colour on almost half the page. Though it might be visually appealing, it doesn’t serve much purpose and is distracting to the user.

It is important to address these inconsistencies because the whole process of design and animation have become very cost effective and are now easily accessible to everyone.

Of course the Visual Hierarchies, the Information Architecture and the whole design process in general would differ vastly depending on the intent. While for some, the primary intent would be to reduce user pain points, for others it could be entertainment or delight. But the fact still remains that more often that not, not much thought is given into these underlying aspects of design while building a product or service.

The Importance of the Gestalt Principles in Web Design

For those looking to improve their knowledge and understanding of design, experts recommend studying a few psychological theories, primary among them being the Gestalt Laws.  The Gestalt Principles in web design essentially try to make sense of how the human brain perceives information and works on it. A good and critical understanding of these laws is required because these laws have been used in the past to drive design and launch successful products and experiences in the market.

An advice to aspiring designers and developers is to do some reading before actually getting down to work with the various design tools. Universal Principles of Design which provides theories on one hand and real concrete examples on the other, is a highly recommended book if you are looking to understand Gestalt Principles in the realm of web design.

A Crucial Element of User Research – The Master and Apprentice Model

Another critical element of design is conducting user research. One prerequisite of user research is meeting with the users and trying to find out their pain points. The Master and Apprentice Model of contextual Interviewing is where the designer assumes the role of the Apprentice trying to understand the issues concerning the Master (the user) and solving the problem after thoroughly delving into it and developing a deep understanding of it.

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