Monday, May 13, 2013

The 'visuality' of not being visual.

As you well know, I spend a lot of time telling whoever is interested that being visual is not a nice option in communications but an indispensible one, in our day and age etc etc.You have heard it all before.

But today, as I am a woman full of contradictions, I want to talk about a website that is not visual at all. Well, that is not quite correct. It's not visual in the traditional 'web' sense of the word, i.e it does not have lots of pictures or videos. But it is visual in its own way. Have I lost you?

Bear with me. In my opinion, the aim of visual communications is only one thing: a way to make people read, listen or watch (are these three things?). So in a sense, if a website achieves that successfully, then for me it is visual even if it doesn't have hundreds of colourful pictures. And I will push it even further: how would you react if I told you that the strength of this particular website, is precisely that it is NOT visual in the traditional sense?

Watch this 5 minute video interview with the designer, Ben Terrett and you will understand what I mean. Ah, and the website is the UK's government website GOV.UK:

Did you hear? "The user does not have to understand government to find something out'. And, when talking about the design, he realises that they are 'doing information design, not pushing pictures around the screen'.  As people visit the site looking for specific information, the designers had to 'strip away all those bits that get in the way of that information'.

So stripping away what is not needed can also be considered a visual way of communicating to a public that, in this particular case, is only interested in information.

Now, look instead at the EUROPA. EU website - you knew that I was going to make a comparison, didn't you? - The homepage might even look similar but once you get into the site you drown, and I don't need to elaborate, as I have said this before. The idea to have all the digital information of the EU into one site is commendable - although a couple of people I have spoken to recently here in Brussels did not even know that the 'Europa' site existed as they only check the sites of the different institutions. But is a platform not a merger as all the other sites (institutions, commissioners, DG's etc) are still happily and separately there. 

I realise that centralising digital communications in the EU, as they are doing in the UK, would be a very dangerous suggestion because some of the nicer and more innovative things are coming from creative individuals who work in different parts of the EU and not necessarily in DG Communications. And I  guess that I will be probably dead before they might agree to merge all the sites into one.

So, I am not keeping my hopes up, but at least I had the chance to explain why not being visual sometimes is actually....very visual.

And before you think I am mad, let me tell you that the site was recently named the 2013 best design of the year!  It does not get more visual than that!

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