4 CRAP Design Principles For A Better UX

A good user experience is a key to the success of any website or app. If you want to improve it, you should master the basics of CRAP design principles. It will allow you to create a more intuitive and satisfying user experience for your customers and succeed in today’s competitive market.

According to statistics, 88% of people who shop online say they would not return to a website if they had a bad user experience. Furthermore, only 55% of companies test UX for business purposes. And in vain, because UX can not only increase traffic to your website but also your monthly income.

Many different factors go into creating a good UX, but one of the most important ones is using the right design principles. Let’s take a look at what CRAP design principles are and how to use them to provide a better user experience for your visitors.

Table of Contents

What Do CRAP Design Principles Mean?

There is no such thing as a perfect design, but there are ways to make designs better. For example, to improve text quality, one can visit essay review websites such as Best Writers Online. To improve the design layout itself, you can also consult professionals or try to solve the issue using CRAP design principles.

C.R.A.P. is an acronym coined by Robin Patricia Williams, representing four graphic design principles: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity. By utilizing CRAP design principles, you can consistently deliver compelling designs for a website, a banner, a social media ad, a poster, an e-book, etc.

CRAP design principles function as a set of guidelines that you can use to improve the usability of your website. Designers should use those principles in each and every design they create. Let’s take a closer look at each one of the four CRAP design principles:

1. Contrast

good vs bad contrast
Contrast – the first of the 4 CRAP design principles. Image source: https://www.lrswebsolutions.com/

This principle states that elements on a page should have enough contrast so that they are easily distinguishable from one another. It is essential for both usability and accessibility reasons.

Poor contrast can make it difficult for users to read text or click on links, and it can also cause problems for users with vision impairments. By ensuring that there is sufficient contrast between elements on your website or product, you can make it much easier for all users to navigate and use your site or product.

Also, there are many different types of contrast, not limited to only color contrast.

You can create contrast by making specific elements bigger or maybe smaller. It is possible to highlight design elements by increasing the distance from other elements, adjusting white space around them, or altering their shape to one that stands out from the rest of the design. Even applying a different texture could be a way to create visual contrast.

Different types of contrast
Different types of contrast. Image source: www.duarte.com

Contrast is all about making sure that different elements on your page stand out from one another. Use contrast to create visual interest and highlight important information.

Experiment and try to use a mix of light and dark colors, different textures, different shapes, alternating proximity, and contrasting fonts while trying to master the first one from the 4 CRAP design principles. Color contrast is also critical for web accessibility. If you don’t choose contrasting, accessible colors (especially between text and its background), people with certain vision impairments may lose out on important information.  

Remember, as long as there is a clear distinction between the various elements and you’re not sacrificing other CRAP design principles, then you are doing it right.

2. Repetition

repetition design principle
Repetition – the second of the 4 CRAP design principles. Image source: ux360.design

Repetition is the intentional recurrence of a specific element in a design. Repetition helps to create a sense of unity on your page. It ties everything together and makes it look like it belongs together. It may remind you of writing an essay in which all words are arranged logically to express an idea.

While writing tasks can be delegated to Writing Judge professionals, mastering CRAP design principles is a subject that you should learn if you want to produce awesome designs in the future.

Using the same colors, fonts, or shapes throughout your design helps to create a cohesive look that is easy for users to understand. It is much easier to search and find relevant information when paragraphs are laid out similarly on different pages. Also, navigation gets way easier when navigation elements are predictable and repetitive. 

When used correctly, repetition can also help to emphasize certain elements and make a design more memorable. For example, some brand attributes in the form of color, shape, logo, or tagline can be repeated over and over again in the designs, even in different mediums.

You can use it not only in the context of an individual design but also connect all your related designs. It is why of all CRAP design principles, this principle can be used most widely.

3. Alignment

alignment design principle
Alignment – the third of the 4 CRAP design principles. Image source: www.dribbble.com/MelTaube

Alignment is the process of arranging the elements on your web page in an organized manner. It includes everything from the alignment of text on a page to the placement of images and other visual elements. 

Alignment is not only aligning elements to the center, right, or left. It also involves alignment between separate objects, text blocks, and all other design elements. Grids can be employed to ensure precise alignment and order.

Of all CRAP design principles, it is probably the easiest to catch a violation of the alignment design principle. Our brains immediately detect even minute visual inconsistencies. This sensitivity to minuscule anomalies forces designers to pay a lot of attention to properly aligning everything in the design. On the other hand, the carefully aligned design gives off a sense of order and comfort. 

A well-aligned website will look more professional and be easier for users to scan in a matter of minutes, while poor alignment can make it feel chaotic and jarring. That chaos and those inconsistencies can even distract the attention from the most important elements. 

On the contrary, when the elements are meticulously arranged, we don’t notice it all, and our attention goes to what matters the most – the main message. 

By paying attention to this principle, you can create designs that are pleasing to the eye and function well on a practical level. 

4. Proximity

proximity design principle
Proximity – the fourth of the 4 CRAP design principles. Image source: www.uxplanet.org

The proximity principle states that related elements should be close to each other so that users can easily see the relationship between them. Vice versa, you can distinguish unrelated items by creating distance between them. 

Correct application of this principle helps reduce clutter on a page and makes it easier for users to find what they are looking for. Proximity can be achieved by grouping together related items using white space, lists, and other design elements.

However, beware of unintended consequences when trying to apply this design principle. Proximity has a special place among CRAP design principles because it has the power to overpower the remaining three CRAP design principles. Proximity is so ingrained in our perception that it has a much stronger effect than other visual features such as color, shape, brightness, etc. 

See in the image below that we perceive objects that are close together as groups despite having very distinctly different visual characteristics.

proximity overpowers other features
Proximity – the fourth of the 4 CRAP design principles. Image source: www.uxmisfit.com

You can effectively communicate relationships between different pieces of information by incorporating a sense of proximity into your designs. It can help to organize and understand your designs better.

By understanding and applying these CRAP design principles, designers can create compelling compositions.

Why Use CRAP Design Principles?

CRAP design principles are important because they provide guidance on how to create visual designs that are effective and pleasing to the eye:

  • Contrast is important because it helps to create visual interest and to highlight important elements;
  • Repetition helps to create a sense of unity and to reinforce the overall message;
  • Alignment ensures that elements are placed in a logical and cohesive manner;
  • Proximity helps to group related elements and emphasize relationships between them.

By using these CRAP design principles, you can ensure that your designs are both visually appealing and easy to understand to the final consumer.

Validate your concepts for performance during the design stage with AI-generated attention analytics

How to Use CRAP Design Principles Properly

By using the CRAP design principles, you can create a more user-friendly website that is easy to navigate and looks more professional. These principles can be applied to any type of web page, whether it is a landing page or an e-commerce site.

Keep in mind that contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity are all important factors in creating an effective design.  So, try to use all four CRAP design principles in every aspect of your website’s design. Let’s take a look at how you can use them to create a better UX for your website:

1. Create A High Contrast Design

good and bad cta button contrast
Image source: www.admiral.digital

Using high-contrast colors is one of the easiest ways to ensure that your website is easy to read. Black text on a white background is the standard for most websites, but you can also experiment with other color combinations to see what works best for your site. Just make sure that there is enough contrast between the colors so that users can easily read your text.

For example, if you want to highlight a call-to-action button, you would use a color that contrasts sharply with the background color of your website. By using contrast, you can direct your users’ eyes to the most important elements on your page by creating emphasis and helping them understand your content better.

One way of creating color emphasis can be using different temperature colors. You can create quite a dramatic effect by contrasting warm-temperature reds, oranges, or yellows with cold blues and greens. This technique is used in the design in the image below.

color temperature contrast example cta button
color temperature contrast example cta button heatmap preview

Web design and its attention heatmap. Image source: www.dribbble.com/NpaulFlavius

Good text spacing and size contrast ensures that even the smallest text is seen (see attention heatmap view), and the high contrast of the CTA button color makes it hard to miss. Hotspots over those elements in the attention heatmap, that show where people will look first, confirm that. The bright yellow color really stands out on that cooler blueish background and directs our attention not only to the CTA button but also to the image. 

Additionally, because of this balance between the yellow in the image and the button, and the fact that both colors slightly drift toward the cooler end, the design still manages to look harmonious and cohesive.  

Another way to create color contrast is to adjust color saturation. Color of 100% saturation is in its brightest, most intense state. Combining very saturated colors with dimmed, less saturated colors can be a great way to attract attention to essential elements. This web design in the image below shows a brilliant example of just that.

Color saturation contrast design example
heatmap of buck wild web design

Web design and its attention heatmap. Image source: www.dribbble.com/greenchameleon

It lays out a very vivid and saturated reddish heading on the pale green scenery of a forest. A double effect is playing out in this color contrast example. The fact that those two colors are complementary in and of itself makes them contrast a lot. Additionally, increased saturation of red and muted green enhances the dramatic effect.

As we can see in the attention heatmap, there is a large red hotspot over the red lettering. It means that the heading captures quite a lot of viewers’ attention as it was intended. Color contrast using saturation does the job of emphasizing specific elements perfectly.

There are even more ways to create contrast. You can also use bright and darkened colors, different shapes and textures, orientation, typography, scale, level of complexity, and other features to create desired contrast between the elements.

To make sure that you are on the safe side regarding the contrast of your design, consider trying out the Contrast Ratio tool. Experiment with different colors and check that the contrast of your color combinations does not fall below the recommended contrast ratio, which is at least 4.5:1.

If you are into data-driven design, you can double-check if that created contrast has any effect on the viewers’ attention. You can effortlessly do that in seconds with the AI heatmap tool that produces attention heatmaps similar to the ones you saw above. When you try to create a focal point in the design using contrast, attention heatmaps can unveil if your efforts are sufficient or if you need to increase the contrast even more.

2. Use the Same Elements Throughout Your Website

Repeating specific elements in a design helps give your website a unified look and feel. For example, if you use the same font for all your headings, all your designs will feel connected, and users will start associating that font with your brand.

As a matter of fact, principles like visual hierarchy, rhythm, and unity rely heavily on repetition. Without the consistent repetition of same-size elements and similar structures, it would be very hard to establish a visual hierarchy in your web or any other design. Viewers will have a tough time noticing hierarchical structure if all the elements are different and unique. 

Repeating elements helps to create a consistent look for your website and makes it easier for users to navigate. You can repeat elements such as fonts, icons, logo, images, colors, patterns, and page layouts. It is important not to overdo it with repetition, but using it sparingly can help tie together all of the different elements on your site.

Let’s see a few examples. In the infographic below, you can see quite subtle use of repetition. Different sections have the same ribbon graphics to contain their headings. The headings maintain the same typography and font color.

achievements forecast infographic
Image source: www.venngage.com

Also, the same colors are repeated throughout the whole infographic. As a result, even though each section looks very different, these similarities tie everything down in a unified way. All this variety of layouts, shapes, and sizes seems to work harmoniously. 

What about only color repetition? What could it look like? Take a look at how Coca-Cola repeats its staple red color across its page. 

coca cola web design usa
A screenshot of a portion of Coca-Cola's website below the fold section.

The color red appears in banners, text, buttons, and bottle labels. This repetitive use of the same primary brand color creates brand unity in all its designs. Such a strategy unconsciously makes you associate the red color with their brand more and more with every exposition to their designs. 

Color repetition also can be done more subtly. To illustrate, let’s look at the web design of the nonprofit organization Heroines below. As a color scheme for their website, they chose the same palette of feminine hues associated with their brand.

Heroines website above the fold screenshot
Screenshot of Heroine's website above-the-fold section.

This consistency of soft colors allows their page to pull off bold design decisions such as strong asymmetry and scrolling banners. In the end, it’s both attention-grabbing and gentle with a professional look.  

There are many more ways to use repetition. Experiment to discover which one fits your design the most Also, do not forget other CRAP design principles.

3. Keep Your Website Organized

website alignment
Image source: www.uxengineer.com

Making sure that everything on your website is properly aligned creates a feeling of orderliness, which helps users feel more comfortable while browsing through your site. No one likes feeling lost or confused when they are trying to find something on a website, so spending some time aligning everything correctly can pay off in terms of user experience.

Proper alignment of the text in a website allows the reader to scan it much quicker and, in turn, to find the information they need faster. On the other hand, improper alignment makes this task harder for the visitor. Let’s take a look at this example of amateur alignment.

webpage with amateur text alignment
Webpage example with an amateur text alignment. Image source: www.vanseodesign.com

It’s not so easy to quickly scan the page. Center alignment is not the right choice when you have larger blocks of text. Each line of the text starts at a different place. This spatial inconsistency makes our eyes wander more and creates a greater cognitive load for our brains which are trying to find the starting point of each line, paragraph, or section at a different place. 

When you align the text to the left and neatly organize all the sections to be in line with each other, our brains have less work to do.

webpage with properly aligned text
Webpage example with a proper text alignment. Image source: www.vanseodesign.com

Now our eyes need to cover a shorter distance because of a much more predictable start of each line – the beginning of each line is aligned to the left. Also, our brains have a much easier time, allowing us not to waste additional energy on that unnecessary task. It, in turn, creates a feeling of more comfortable experience scanning and reading this website. 

The same principles also apply to smaller details. Our next example below will prove it. The option on the left is not terrible or too bad, but something feels not right.

testimonial alignment - good and bad
A good and a bad example of testimonial alignment. Image source: www.balsamiq.com

It is because the text is aligned with the quotation mark and hyphen. In the right option, the text is aligned with the text and not with other symbols. This little adjustment makes it a bit more readable for the viewers and also slightly better looking. 

A helpful tool for this task of organizing everything visually can be a grid. You can find them in design apps as a feature that makes the alignment process easier. One of the most popular is 12 column grid.

WeWork's home page
WeWork's homepage with grid

WeWork’s home page without a grid (on the left) and with a grid and highlighted boundaries of elements and sections (on the right). Image source: www.uxdesign.cc

In the example above, you can see two screenshots of WeWork’s homepage – one without a grid and another with overlayed grid and boundaries of elements and sections. 

You can notice that this page was designed using this 12-column grid. Everything looks nice and organized and creates a harmonious feeling. This is the effect of proper alignment in a design.

4. Group Similar Items Together

When you group items correctly, you make it much easier for users to find what they are looking for quickly and easily. It is especially important for e-commerce websites where users need to be able to find products quickly and efficiently without getting frustrated.

proximity principle sample in e-commerce
Example of how proximity can be applied to a product grid. Image source: www.uxmisfit.com

In the image above, on the left, you can see an e-commerce page wireframe with thumbnails, titles, and everything else crammed together with no whitespace in between. It is challenging for the eye to discern which buttons relate to which thumbnail. 

However, on the right, when the proximity principle is applied correctly, everything is much clearer. Each thumbnail with belonging elements is separated from other thumbnails using whitespace. 

Now each thumbnail with the title, description, and related buttons functions as a separate group. Our brains can much quicker recognize that elements in those groups are related. It removes needless mental friction and makes the user experience much smoother. 

However, not only e-commerce websites benefit from the proximity design principle. Well-applied proximity principle is valuable in each type of design.  

Clustering similar items together is a great way to reduce clutter on your site and make it more visually appealing. It can reduce complexity and make it easier to process longer and more complex web pages.

For example, if you have many different types of content on your website, you would group them by category rather than scattering them randomly around the page. You can notice an example of the correctly applied proximity principle in the following two wireframes (image below).

proximity principle in a wireframe
Two webpage wireframes depicting use of proximity principle. Image source: www.medium.muz.li

These are two possible options for how different types of content can be arranged on a page by grouping similar items together. Related objects are positioned closer together, forming distinct sections, and those sections are separated with whitespace. 

Eyes are able to navigate this page with ease. Imagine what a mess it would be if all elements were scattered around without this structure and with no whitespace between them. CRAP design principles allow you to avoid such outcomes.

CRAP design principles summed up

The CRAP design principles are a great way to improve the usability of your website and create a better user experience overall. By using high-contrast colors, repeating certain elements throughout your site, keeping everything properly aligned, and grouping similar items together, you can help make sure that users have a positive experience while browsing through your site, which will lead to more conversions in the long run.

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