erica cheng

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Notes on aesthetic experience in information design and Web 2.0

In “Aesthetic Experience and the Importance of Visual Composition in Information Design”, Tim Greenzweig stressed the importance of visual composition in information design, which is often neglected by the usability-orientated designers. Greenzweig pointed out that the “look and feel" of a website is an integral part of the information design structure, rather than merely serves as a decoration function of the information. The visual composition of information should be simultaneously applied with the structure and content to the information design.

To advocate the importance of visual composition, Greenzweig stated that navigation on the website is just like watching a movie or listening to music, people gain their respective aesthetic experience through different perceptions on the objective. Furthermore, the visual composition allows for variations in the information structure, making viewers surprised and interested by the whole design based on their different ways of perception and interpretation. Consequently, a good visual composition can enhance the communication ability of the website, and should not be compromised due to the focus on the usability. In other words, visual composition and usability of the website is correlated, not conflicted.

Greenzweig embraced the central idea of Gestalt Theory, claiming that the information design should build a cohesive composition that gains order and clarity from the relationships between the elements. The composition, as a whole, should provide users with an easily accessible, clearly structured, and aesthetically pleasing presentation. In my opinion, basic Web convention such as underlined links, color change in links for visited pages, and common terminology should be followed, so as to give users a familiar and comfortable environment when accessing the Web. However, creative visual design on the content layout and information architecture should also be encouraged, in order to impress the users and further arouse their interest at the website. A good visual composition in the overall information design can enrich viewers’ experience and arouse their interests and expectation for further content.

In Dave Rogers’ “Web 2.0: Mistaking the Forest for the Trees?”, the author asserted that user centralization is the critical element in the era of Web 2.0. Web 2.0 serves as an open platform for users to participate in the creation of content and the design for the Web. Under the circumstance, end-users are granted more power to decide what they want to know on the Web, as well as to control the access to the content on the website. For instance, blog has enabled consumers to publish their own content on the Web. Many websites have provided blog function in order to invite users to contribute their opinions and ideas. Web 2.0 has strengthened the interactivity between the websites and individual users. Besides, website designers become more and more aware of the necessity to learn users’ perception and habits on using the Web, so as to design the Web content that can effectively reach the users. In this way, the users have changed the way people design for the Web. Rogers appreciated the value of traditional ways of collecting users’ preference when visiting the Web, such surveys, usability tests, personas, card sorting exercises. However, he stressed that Web 2.0 calls for deeper reaching into the minds and hearts of the target users. It is necessary for the designers to explore new tools, novel methods and fresh perspectives. Also, the designers should bear in mind to always bring users into the design process, even after the site is launched. In the era of Web 2.0, user is the king. The web should serve the user first and be flexible with users.

In the end, Rogers presented the idea that people should move beyond site-centeredness. Nowadays people use the websites in the context of the greater Web. Rogers compared the Web as a forest and the websites as the trees. Based on my interpretation, the websites interlink with one another and together establish a robust Web ecosystem. Users surf on the Web through the interlinking among various websites. A good system of interconnection among websites on the Web must be ensured so as to keep the Web growing. Under this circumstance, a website must be originated from and modified according to the users and the overall condition and development of the Web, rather than be established under a narrow scope of a single organization.


  • At 6:07 PM, Blogger Meg said…


    This is an excellent examination of the readings. I think your final summation is really good and very well put. It seems that most commercial sites are not designed along these lines but more and more try and keep users to their site. There seems to be a large disconnect between garden variety website design and what the proponents of Web 2.0 are advocating. Do you think that's true?

  • At 11:35 PM, Blogger davidcho said…

    Hello Erica....

    I liked how your summary is related to the whole scope of today's websites. Some website we see today gives the user's issues or simply don't know how to navgiate through it. We assume web 2.0 enables the user to control the you feel that is too much power to user?


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