In previous articles, I started the series of posts devoted to Gestalt theory and ways to effectively apply it in UX design. We have already presented the definition of Gestalt theory, the principles of grouping in particular, as well as looked into the principle of similarity for user interfaces. This time let’s discuss the principle of proximity for UX design.
This one is especially useful as it deals with how our eyes and brains draw connections with design images. Of course, connecting is also important to us – that’s what we want to make happen between our users and our designs !
This principle is based on the cognitive tendency to perceive the objects close to each other as related, especially in comparison with those which are placed farther. Having the urge to organize the variety of data and objects around, people often group them this way automatically, much quicker than they start real thinking about it. So for designers, this is another good prompt how to organize the interface along natural ways the brain absorbs and classifies data.
White space, also known as negative space, plays the great role in this process. It allows a designer to activate the power of nothing: the space without any content not only adds the air to general layout but can be also used to organize its elements as groups and unities where it’s needed.
In user interfaces, which are full of different content, by organizing related content for clarity the principle of proximity helps a designer to organize the layout to make it scannable and easily-perceived for users.
The law of proximity is one tool to improve the usability and interaction from the user’s perspective. While this isn’t necessarily magic, remember that optical illusions exploit some guaranteed human eye-to-brain traits, which is the beauty of understanding Gestalt principles, too.