Look&Feel – how to define a product personality

4 June 2019

Rafał Ginko

Senior UI Designer
Rafał Ginko
Look&Feel – how to define a product personality

Look&Feel is a set of features which influence the receipt of a product by people having contact with it. There is a reason for it having two words: “Look” and “Feel”. We can consider them as a product personality or style. Let’s imagine our website, application or even service and a campaign accompanying them as a person. The way they dress, move and speak decides about their perception by environment.

Look consists of a collection of visual properties such as color, shape, lettering, icons group and a key to choose photos or pictures. A set of features defining the product Feel is much wider and it goes beyond a visual layer itself. Of course, the elements belonging to the Look, e.g., the content of photos or pictures the product contains, hugely influence the type of feelings a given product evokes while using it but there is more to it.

Equally important factors causing human emotions are movement (especially its characteristics), a communication language style, compatibility of used solutions with the standards known to the user and issues, it might appear, totally not identified with design – equipment efficiency and the Internet connection quality.

Product personality

It is us who decides whether our product is Claire Underwood, a character from the “House of Cards” series, dressed in a lowkey outfit, perfectly matching the requirements of diplomatic savoir-vivre, knowing rhetoric greatly, yet very restrained when it comes to showing her emotions. Maybe it is Bridget Jones whose temperament gets spectators’ sympathy or a superhero of one of Marvel’s series in a colorful tricot and company of special effects, rescuing the world against extermination.

When defining a product personality, we try to define its location on several axes of opposing features.

Should the product be serious or informal, luxurious or accessible, modern or traditional, innovative or conservative, bold or subdued? Specificity of an application, website or service can also require deciding about the position on the female vs male axe. Crucial is the fact that none of mentioned features does not dominate over its antonym. Appropriate features specifying the product personality depend on the context which might include values identified with a brand, product recipients group specificity and, when looking more widely, even cultural conditions.

How can we control the product style? Let’s have a Look at constitutive elements of Look&Feel and consider how they influence the product style.

Color

Source: Material Design

Color palette, based on which is a visual product layer, most often results directly from brand colors. In case of creating a new product, that is in the situation when we are fully free to choose a color, we can influence a product location with this element on basically all the product personality axes mentioned before. When choosing a suitable color, it is easy to define whether a given product is serious, luxurious or subdued.

Typography

Source: Material Design

The 15th century is considered to be the time when lettering design started. It was the period of Gutenberg’s work – 600 years during which typefaces were created and developed. Such a long and rich lettering history causes that a skillful choice of style in Look&Feel of a product has huge influence on locating it on the modern-traditional axe. Writing style features can also define the seriousness or prestige of a product.

Shape

Source: Material Design

If we want to strengthen the impression of modernity and boldness of a product, we can use the shapes going beyond classical, rectangular forms imposed by “an imperfect technology” until recently.

Icons, illustrations and photos

Graphical elements such as icons, illustrations or photos can influence Look&Feel very strongly. The more visually complex, the broader content they show and the more strongly they affect emotions. A perfect example are photos which we most often choose taking into consideration the emotions they present.

Brightness, saturation

Look&Feel can be also specified with color, brightness and saturation of graphical elements. If an application project is about to reflect the luxurious value of the brand, subdued, minimalistic photos will surely highlight this feature better than colorful, gaudy illustrations. It is the other way round when the talk about the service directed at the digital natives generation, brought up on short, content-larded information.

Movement

The compliance of L&F with the brand at a visual level is usually much easier than specifying a communication language and transferring brand specifics to a movement/animation plane.

Source: Material Design

When used in an appropriate way, an animation allows to highlight the continuity of processes which engage a user or draw their attention to crucial interface elements. Movement, which can be one of Look&Feel elements, is based on such parameters as the time of duration, acceleration and slowdown that make it possible for the animation to have its own character. Their range is from delicate changes of color, e.g., on active elements of the Internet site, to very dynamic animations of big elements creating the impression of smooth transition between visually differentiated application screens. Decisions concerning movement influence mainly the personality axe: serious – informal and bold – subdued.

Source: Material Design

Communication language

Another feature defining the feel of a product, or even the whole brand, is a communication style. When talking with our customers as a big bank, we will use a different language than the one of the communication in a social network application directed at a young user. Choosing a proper communication language makes it possible to create a distance or bringing a product closer to a customer and this allows for positioning the product on a serious – informal plane.

Compliance with standards

Source: Material Design

If we decide to base a product interface on elements compliant with conventions, we will save those using it a necessity of learning new ways of the product operation. Models which a user got to know earlier, used in our product, will evoke the impression of intuitiveness of the whole solution. A source of such standards can be project specifications made available by Google (Material Design) and Apple (Human Interface Guidelines).

Efficiency

The speed of content loading, smoothness of used animations or an application or website time of reaction for a user’s action have huge influence on the experience which a product evokes. Efficiency should be a basic and obligatory feature in every digital product. An inefficient website or application becomes an unsuccessful product despite great decisions made for all the remaining, constitutive elements of Look&Feel.

We need to remember that average users of our application use it by means of various devices – not only computers but, more and more often, mobile devices which do not always belong to the newest and most efficient ones.

We can design perfect and well-adjusted UI, offer a wide range of useful functionalities and respond to all user’s needs but if an application will not work quickly and efficiently, their patience will run out very fast and they will start looking for an alternative solution.

That is why efficiency, understood both as user’s interface usability and technical optimization, should be one of priorities in the process of creating an application.

All the Look&Feel features are accompanied with conventions recorded by existing solutions. Brands teach us that subdued coloring and a formal, communication language are the domain of banking applications. Characteristic typography is usually used by brands whose target product groups are young users and illustrations are most frequently present in products for children.

Skillful breaking these rules can become an attribute distinguishing a product among other solutions. Snapchat created totally authorial solutions of navigation in interface and Revolut communicates with its customers using an informal language, even though it competes with banking products.

Well-planned Look&Feel always takes into consideration a full context: values crucial for users, business requirements and brand assumptions. All these factors should influence and be reflected in the Look&Feel product project.