Where ‘theme’ fits into UX development

3 min read

At the heart of any User Experience (UX) design is the ‘theme’ you are instilling into the website visitor’s mind. This makes it an important aspect of any website where consideration is made for UX. Despite this obvious proposition it is important to consider where this fits into the development process.

In my opinion consideration must be given for the required ‘theme’ at the beginning of the creative design process. As once you can conceptualise the ‘theme’ it will ensure consistently throughout the design decisions for your intended UX. In effect this idea then becomes the philosophy that helps inform your design.

There are a plethora of ways you can achieve any particular UX as a designer. The ‘theme’ is what allows you to decide how to achieve this. For example, a website I worked on was for a restaurant that has a young clientele and is based in an area with a large number of young professionals.

With this in mind I aimed to give the website a ‘cartoon’ feel, to show that the restaurant was young in mind and that it was ‘easy-going’. I wanted evoke the feeling of a classic Loony Tunes cartoon – Speedy Gonzales. It’s within the age-group of the clientele, whilst the simple colours and rounded corners work well on the web. This idea was realised through the graphics, colours and typography used in the UX.

To better illustrate this

How UX was achieved
The UX was achieved a few ways, with particular focus placed on typography selection. A popular font within academic publications is Times Roman, and in user surveys of ANZAM members, it was the font identified as the most familiar. That particular font, however, does not translate especially well to monitor reading (as it was developed well before computers, in 1931).

Two typefaces that were developed as monitor-friendly versions of Times Roman are Cambria and Georgia. Their advantage over Times Roman was their extra x-height (which makes them slimmer) and larger size at each pixel range. However, because they are an extension of Times Roman they give the same appearance, and help develop the feel of a scholarly text that I was aiming for.

I chose Cambria as the lead type over Georgia, as it is slightly slimmer. This allowed the size to be larger, which is better for screen-reading purposes, without leading to a ‘heavy-text’ feel that can result from thick typefaces.

To further underline this experience of a ‘scholarly text’ to the user, I made the titles on the secondary pages very large, with entire bars dedicated to them. With a light background behind it and large degree of space, it not only provides a strong signal to the user about where they are within the site, but also continues the theme of a Times Roman-style typeface. It is this sort of reinforcement of a theme in multiple areas of a site that help maintain the UX.

An additional UX decision that was used to further reinforce the ‘scholarly’ theme was minimalism. Scholarly texts are simple, text-heavy and notable for their columns and sparse use of simple lines to separate elements. Hence the site is largely white, with subtle variations of a grey gradient used as a contrast. This helps support the perception of white space, which in turns supports both the readability of the site and the navigation elements.

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