humanbody design1Technology changes quickly but people don’t. No matter whether you’re designing a Facebook ad, infographic or a website; your design will either serve to hinder or benefit your audience. By understanding the people you aim to serve, you can create a better experience for them and a more profitable one for your business.

Here are some things to think about:

1. Consider people’s physical limitations when it comes to design

With the increasing use of virtual reality and augmented reality as a tool in communications, we have to take into account the human body as a design consideration. Designers very often only consider the visual when developing their products; however it’s important to also think about how people move and whether they may have physical limitations that might impact on their experience. With so much content now viewed on mobile phones, it’s important to consider how people use their hands, thumbs and fingers to interact with the display. Where is it easiest to tap? Are they holding the phone in one hand or two? Is there an area that’s difficult to reach and what information have you put there?

2. Design for the age of your audience

There are a number of factors to take into account if you are designing for the very young or if your audience is over 40. For the over 40’s eyesight is a big consideration. If you’re heading towards midlife you may have noticed that you have to hold things further away in order to read them. After the age of 40, your eyes have difficulty focusing on things that are nearby. This is called Presbyopia or farsightedness and is caused by the lens of the eye becoming less flexible. While glasses can go a long way to fixing this, screens can still be a problem. While high screen resolutions mean more information is visible without scrolling, it also reduces the size of everything and text can become harder to read. To meet the needs of an older audience, make sure that they have the ability to make text larger and that you’ve used a font that is easy to read.

Motor skills don’t decline until much later, but tablets, smartphones and other technology often require a lot on fine motor skills – swiping, clicking and tapping. Leave enough space between things if people need to click or tap and think about giving your audience other options, such as voice interactions.

At the other end of the spectrum, toddlers and preschoolers are already using tablets and they don’t have the physical dexterity and muscle control in their fingers and hands as that of an adult. Avoid using a double tap, pinch or swipe in your design.

3. Design for all the senses

We are sensory creatures and we absorb information through our eyes, ears, nose and skin. Our brains use multiple senses to process information. A lack of sight can be compensated for by enhanced hearing - just think of musicians like Stevie Wonder and Andrea Bocelli. So, what does this mean for online content creators? Storytelling can be an effective tool to engage all the senses: visually compelling images, videos, colours; audio in the form of narration; clicks, taps, touch and dragging, swiping, scrolling and other activities can engage touch. Even the choice of vivid images and words can trick us into imagining taste and smell. Designing for all the senses creates a more immersive experience and content that is more likely to be remembered.

4. Where do users look first?

Where are your users from? If your audience speaks a language where they read from left to right, they will look at the screen from left to right. However, if your users speak a language where they read from right to left, they will do the opposite. It’s important to take this into account if you have a multicultural audience. People also learn to expect certain locations for specific content on a website, such as a logo in the left hand corner of a screen. This can lead them to ignore areas of the screen where they expect to see content they regard as irrelevant. It’s therefore important to plan where to put your most important information so it will easily be seen.

5. Reading online is different from reading offline

The way we read is different when we read a book versus when we are browsing online. When viewing text online we are most likely skimming and scanning, so it’s important to use headings and chunk information under them. This also applies to video. If you have a video that is more than a few minutes long, try to find ways to chunk it down into smaller content areas. You also need to factor in the distance from the screen. Is someone reading on a desktop, tablet or smartphone? The device you are reading on will impact on the size of the objects on display, so the further you are from the screen the larger the items on the display will need to be.

Understanding how the brain and body process information is an important step in designing content that people will interact and engage with.

Weinshenk, S. (2011) 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People. New Riders. Berkley, CA.

Weinshenk, S. (2016) 100 More Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People. New Riders. Berkley, CA.


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