The Importance of Visual Appeal in Web Design


Robyn Collinge

June 28, 2017

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Great web design. It’s a concept that has become indispensable over the last decade. We all want a website and we want that website to meet the most popular design standards out there. But, how much of a website’s success can really be attributed to visual appeal?

Judging a book by its cover

To answer that question, first we need to recognize that design is just as broad as it is popular. There is web design, visual design, graphic design, interaction design, interface design, and, of course, user experience (UX) design.

For now, let’s focus on what can be categorized as web design, visual design, or graphic design – the visual appeal of a website.

Visual appeal is what meets the eye. It’s the colors, shapes, pictures, fonts, white space, and overall visual balance of a design. Whether a website appeals to us affects how we perceive it, how we use it, and how we remember it.

The role of visual appeal in web design

1. Attract attention

Visual appeal can – more than anything – attract attention. This is key to getting visitors engaged with your website. We like to look at pretty things and if we have the choice, we always prefer an attractive design or image over an ugly or neutral one.

visual appeal web design

WeTransfer features a variety of artists, designers, illustrators, and photographers as the ever-changing background on its homepage. The bright, creative artworks immediately draw the user’s attention while adding both energy and aesthetic appeal to what is usually considered a mundane task – transferring large files.

2. Create a first impression

Our first impression when meeting someone face-to-face can affect our relationship with them in the long term. It affects whether or not we like someone, if we think we can trust them, and if we intend to meet that person again. Basically, within only a few seconds – maybe minutes, we can decide if we enjoy spending time with someone or not.

Online, it’s the same thing. Once a website has made a negative first impression on us, chances are we will not enjoy our visit much or look forward to coming back. Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re all guilty of sometimes judging a book by its cover – meaning visual appeal plays a large part in establishing brand affinity with your website visitors.

visual appeal web design

Creative agency, Snask, makes a great first impression with a bright, colorful, and playful homepage. Visitors instantly see the creative capabilities of the brand while still having a clear understanding of what they do.

3. Build relationships

Visual appeal can also build relationships. If visitors can identify with your website, you are a huge step closer to building a long-term relationship with them – which is, of course, the end goal.

We like to define ourselves through our interests, our hobbies, the things we are passionate about – and this resonates in the types of website we interact with. Our browser history can be seen as an extension of our lifestyle choices, meaning websites that complement our identity are immediately more appealing.

visual appeal web design

Take a look at the Adidas website. By promoting their partnership with Parley in an effort to recycle ocean waste into high performance sportswear, the brand is selling a lifestyle that cares for the future of environment. Which is, hopefully, something that will resonate with a lot of visitors. The magnitude of the cause is emphasized with a simple, basic to basics design but also the added visual appeal of video content to educate users.

4. Increase tolerance

Visual appeal is a quality in itself. It can be a great advantage that you use to cover other, less convenient aspects of your website. Obviously, it should be the ultimate goal to design and build the perfect website. But, at the same time, this can be difficult to achieve with so many different pieces contributing to the big picture.

So ultimately, your website will be great in some ways, but there will be room for improvement in others. If your visual design is top edge, your visitors will be more forgiving for deficits in other areas.

visual appeal web design

The bright colors, fantastic graphics, and playful animations of the Two Chefs Brewing website effortlessly captivate visitors. However, they also draw attention away from the quite laborsome architecture of the site – which is made up of numerous pages and requires a lot of clicking from the user.

5. Evoke emotion

We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ – and it’s especially relevant when it comes to communicating on a more emotional level. Through pictures and other visual elements, you can convey feelings such as delight, sadness, or even pity. Visual appeal can awaken memories and emotions like trust, comfort, hope, or self-confidence.

visual appeal web design

The Paypal website knows exactly what it takes to appeal to its visitors’ emotions through visual design. The header image, along with the copy, evokes a personal and familiar setting. This ensures the user feel at ease, which is important when it comes to finances.

The takeaways

Visual appeal is an extremely important aspect of web design – particularly when it comes to building a lasting relationship and brand affinity with your visitors. Although, at the same time, it’s important not to neglect the basics.

Ensure that, as well as aesthetically appealing, your website is findable, usable, and accessible. A combination of functionality and visual appeal will make sure that both you and your visitors get the most out of your site – as well as building the foundation for an exceptional user experience.

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