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Principle 6: User friendly products

Create products that are user-friendly.

Engaging your audience and maximising their ability to comprehend the information being delivered is crucial for effective communication.

An important component in achieving this is visual design; with research in psychology and neuroscience demonstrating that we react to visual stimuli in predictable ways. For example, we constantly evaluate whether the difficulty of a task is worth the reward for completing it. In other words, if we find the effort required to read a document or to locate a webpage too demanding, we’ll ultimately decide it’s no longer worth continuing. Similarly, we have a limit to the amount of information we can absorb at any one time. Therefore, if a page contains too much information, we can become overwhelmed and lose concentration. We also tend to take short cuts when interpreting the things we see. For example, when visual elements are positioned close together or are similar in appearance our brains automatically assume these elements are related.

Design principles have been developed to help create products that are easy on the eye and the brain, which in turn helps the user engage with the content. Links to further information about these principles are provided in the list of Resources.

The use of visual or graphical representations of information can also enhance user comprehension. We are programmed to see in pictures and our recall ability is greater when using diagrams, graphs or maps compared to using text alone. Visual imagery can also trigger emotive responses, which can work to hold interest and attention.

  • SharedLearningHow this principle was used in AdaptNRM

    AdaptNRM had the benefit of collaborating with professional designers, Small Studio, to develop the branding, website design and document templates for the project. Together, we aimed to incorporate user-friendly features across the AdaptNRM products. Examples of this are described below:

    • We used sub-sections with clear headings and bulleted lists so users could process information in ‘bite-sized’ chunks, and locate information most relevant for them. Similarly, the webpages often used ‘drop down’ content, so the user was in control of how much information they received at once.
    • Each module was colour themed and represented by specific icons which were repeated across documents and webpages to create cohesion across the different formats. Repetition of the AdaptNRM brand reinforced our visual identity.
    • The guides followed a similar layout (e.g. cover pages, side bars) to build familiarity and save users’ time and effort in familiarising themselves with a new document structure for each module.
    • Schematic diagrams were used to illustrate the concepts and calculations underpinning the ‘measures’ presented in the Biodiversity modules to make them easier to understand.
    • Images were used to encapsulate the topics of the modules and create impact, with photos of NRMs in action, invasive threats, and Australia’s unique flora and fauna.
  • SharedLearningIdeas for how you can apply this principle

    The implementation of this principle is greatly assisted with the involvement of professional designers and communicators, including input at the earlier stages of a product’s development. However, the extent of this ‘helping hand’ is will depend on the availability of resources. Regardless of how much help you ultimately receive, it may still be useful to think about the following when creating user-friendly products:

    • Who is your target audience? What are their preferences for content delivery?
    • Is the product engaging to read? – consider your language, layout, and graphics
    • Is the product clearly and logically structured?
    • Can users easily find what they’re looking for and are documents and websites easy to navigate?
    • Have you achieved the right balance between text and visual content (including white space) for the purposes of the product?
    • Is your brand and identity clear and is it repeated consistently across all your products?
    • Have you used imagery and graphics to best effect?
    • Have you tested the product with your audience?