Why UX is like Pizza

Darcy Mangan AD

My Italian friends are not impressed when I add pineapple to my pizza and carrots to my spaghetti Bolognese. They are used to the simple, (and let’s face it) tastier version from back home. I’ve tainted a classic and thrown in as many ingredients as I feel like without thinking about it. Good UX is a lot like a simple and predictable pizza, fresh out of a wood-fired oven with nothing but tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil. No prawns, no pineapple, no eggs, no pumpkin and no weird sauces.

As great pizza is to Italy, great design is to the Swiss. The Swiss Style or International Typographic Style originated in Europe in the 1920s and was way ahead of its time. It was user oriented with the majority of designs utilised for street signs, posters, stamps and navigations systems. It focused on the user experience, specifically on readability and clarity. All unnecessary elements are removed.

Pioneer of the Swiss style, Emil Ruder, believes a ‘work which cannot be read becomes a product without purpose.’ Users exposed to an uncomplicated typographic layout have more focus, more efficient processes and even feel better than those exposed to visual clutter and less readable or ugly typography. Unnecessarily ornate typefaces that may function in print are usually not highly legible or readable on screen because your audience is too busy trying to determine what each letter is. Line length is also significant. While long lines of text might look interesting, readability and legibility suffers. Familiar typographic choices often build trust with a user, helping them to distinguish ads, popups, scams and click-bait from real content.

Several colours as opposed to one or two does not automatically mean a complete design or superior UX. One or two colours stand out more than several and strengthen your brand, giving users a means to distinguish your unique product from others. Less colours means less competition between elements and more harmony. This increases your visual hierarchy so users know exactly what to do. Colour is much more powerful when used in moderation to draw attention to elements and control what your audience does.

Without a distinguishable hierarchy, users do not know what to do, or what order to do it in. Typeface size contrast is a crucial. Something that is very obvious in the Swiss Style. Large typography dominates the most important components of the information architecture in the work of Josef Muller-Brockman, Jan Tschichold, Karl Gerstner and Emil Ruder. This is contrasted with smaller copy, which guides the user. Users know automatically what is most important and what to focus on.

User-centric designer Donald Norman states that, “the design of everyday things is in great danger of becoming the design of superfluous, overloaded, unnecessary things.” Designing for UX means form should follow function. The user needn't know how the website works, rather they should intuitively and simply understand content and behaviour. Their experience should be rational. Remove any clutter (visual and content) that is getting in the way of what you want the user to do. Ornamentation is definitely allowed, but only when necessary. When you feel the design is lacking, remove an element rather than adding more. Think of the three button Apple TV remote, the one button/click-wheel iPod or the change computers made in the 1980s from lines of code to WIMP.

When designing for yourself, keep it complex if this is what you are familiar with, enjoy and expect. If you are designing for the masses, keep them in mind and keep it attractive, clear and uncomplicated. Think as the user, not as the website owner.

Likewise, if you are at home cooking for yourself throw in whatever you like. You are the end user. If you are cooking for Italians, you better keep it simple.

Learn more about Adelphi Digital