The Importance of Context in Web Design

The 2009 documentary Art & Copy reminded us all of the romance between the visual and the verbal during the age of advertising. Traditional advertising has long embraced the relationship between art and copy. The digital age has, too—sort of.

Digital experiences have opened the floodgates for the way in which copy and visual elements work together through interactions like rollover states, rotators, and parallax scrolling. But when it comes to websites, there is often an unbalanced emphasis on design and content. Clients tend to focus attention on one or the other. There is a belief that if the headline is just so or the stock photo is just right (while neglecting the other) then every customer will instantly be able to interpret the message.

Here’s the thing: when one is without the other—when art is without copy or copy without art—there is no context. It’s like asking your customers to decipher an abstraction of your company or brand. It’s only half of the story.

Take a Bite

In a story, context is gleaned from the surrounding details. You can’t fully understand the meaning of a sentence without understanding what was said before and after. In web design, context is defined by the details of art and copy. Customers can’t fully understand the purpose or value of your company on a website by reading a headline or looking at a photo of a woman holding an iPhone. It’s the combination of the two that gives customers a full understanding of who you are and what you do.

Take a Bite is a series written by Heather that delivers bite-sized ramblings about all things UX, design and the like.

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