Does it really matter if your app, online course, or website is visually appealing? We’re not saying it has to look like a perfectly plated meal or an aesthetically pleasing picture of your plants à la an Instagram feed. It’s great to have something that looks nice and aligns with your brand, but what impact does it have? We’re giving you a piece on visual design—what is it, and why is it important?

What is visual design?

You may have heard the term visual design before, but isn’t it just another word for graphic design? Nope. Visual design is essentially a combination of graphic design and user interface (UI) design. Visual design focuses on websites, apps, and other digital platforms, working towards design that’s not only beautiful, but also usable.

So, why is visual design important?

Why visual design matters according to learning principles

At Maestro, we take learning seriously, and to maintain consistency with every project we take on, there are a few key principles we’ve adopted. Two of these principles go hand-in-hand with visual design.

1. Every experience in the learning process is more effective when thoughtfully designed

The Stanford Credibility Project asked more than 2,500 people to assess the credibility of several websites. The study found a clear link between visual design and perceived credibility. It showed that nearly half of all consumers (46.1%, to be exact) make judgments about a site’s credibility based on its design, including things like layout, typography, and color palette—all important factors of a well-designed website.

When you consider the implications of this study, it shouldn’t be a surprise that visual design is essential for the success of our products! Credibility is what builds trust, and we all understand that trust is key to building strong connections with customers.

As it turns out, Stanford’s study is far from the only evidence to back up this principle–there’s also something known as the Aesthetic Usability Effect. The Aesthetic Usability Effect is the proven idea that aesthetically pleasing design creates a positive response in people’s brains and leads them to believe the product actually works better.

2. We must meet our learners where they’re at

Because visual design has a focus on UI design, it places the user’s experience of the design front and center—in other words, good visual design meets learners where they are. This coincides with one of the key principles of adult learning theory, which states that adults draw from previous experience.

There’s also something called Jakob’s Law that gives us further insight into this. Jakob’s Law states that users spend most of their time on digital experiences, and therefore prefer new digital experiences to work the same way as digital experiences they’re familiar with. While design should be about creating things that are beautiful and innovative, equally important is ease-of-use—the inviting part for people to discover everything the design has to offer.

Think about it

What apps, stores, devices, and websites do you really love? What sort of experiences do they provide? In addition to the products, information, or services they supply, they’re also easy on the eyes. You enjoy using them because you enjoy seeing them on your screen, and you have the know-how to know how they work.

Today’s technology provides our users with infinite options. As a result, we compete not by the day, but by the minute for their attention and engagement. Failing to prioritize the visual design of your software hinders your ability to compete right from the start. And without smart design, you’re more likely to lose your users because they won’t perceive your product to be as useful, credible, or interesting as you intended it to be.

Moving forward, the question shouldn’t be, “Does visual design matter?” but, “How can we make visual design more important?”

Invest in visual design that truly stands out

The proof is in the pudding—see how we’ve applied these principles with our partners.

See our work