5 Reasons Why Metaphors Can Improve the User Experience

There are many ways to experience the world around us. Especially offline, we can make use of our different senses to collect information, interpret our environment and make judgments.

On the Web, however, our senses are more limited. As designers, we need to present information carefully to make sure our users think, feel and do the right thing.

A great way to help your users understand abstract content, create a sense of familiarity, trigger emotions, draw attention and motivate action are metaphors.

“The way we think, what we experience, and what we do every day is very much a matter of metaphor.”
– Lakoff and Johnson

In their frequently cited book, Metaphors We Live By, Lakoff and Johnson demonstrate the important role of metaphors in our language and in our everyday lives. Our conceptual system is largely metaphorical, which means that we use metaphors to reason and understand the world.

For example :

Metaphors can be used creatively to explain complex or uncommon concepts. For example, take a look at Huw Wilkins’s 404 error page on his blog:

Many Web users don’t know what a 404 error is, and generic 404 error pages may be intimidating to them. Instead of giving a technical explanation of why the requested page is not available, the user gets a humorous image of a running ninja who stole the page being requested.

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