Von Restorff Effect

Von Restorff Effect: Leveraging Distinctiveness to Enhance User Experience

The Von Restorff Effect, also known as the Isolation Effect, is a psychological principle that suggests items that stand out from their peers are more likely to be remembered. This principle can be a powerful tool in UX design, helping to draw users’ attention to important elements and improve the overall effectiveness of the interface.

What is the Von Restorff Effect?

The Von Restorff Effect is named after German psychiatrist and pediatrician Hedwig von Restorff, who discovered that when multiple similar items are presented, the one that differs from the rest is more likely to be remembered. This effect is rooted in the concept of distinctiveness: unique or contrasting features make an item more noticeable and memorable.

Importance of the Von Restorff Effect in UX Design

  1. Enhanced Recall: By making key elements stand out, designers can ensure that users remember important information or actions.
  2. Improved Usability: Highlighting essential features or calls to action can guide users more effectively, leading to a smoother and more intuitive user experience.
  3. Increased Engagement: Distinctive elements can capture users’ attention and encourage interaction, boosting engagement and satisfaction.
  4. Error Reduction: By drawing attention to critical warnings or instructions, the Von Restorff Effect can help reduce user errors and enhance overall safety.
  5. Effective Communication: Leveraging this effect ensures that the most crucial information is communicated clearly and effectively, reducing the likelihood of important details being overlooked.

Key Strategies for Applying the Von Restorff Effect

  1. Use of Color: Employ contrasting colors to highlight important elements such as buttons, links, or alerts. Ensure the contrast is significant enough to stand out without overwhelming the user.
  2. Size Variation: Make key items larger or smaller than surrounding elements to draw attention. Larger buttons for primary actions or prominent headings can effectively utilize size contrast.
  3. Unique Shapes: Incorporate distinct shapes or icons for important features. This can help them stand out from standard elements like rectangular buttons or standard text.
  4. Typography Contrast: Use different fonts, weights, or styles to emphasize key information. Bold or italic text can make important details more noticeable.
  5. Whitespace: Surround important elements with ample whitespace to isolate them from other content. This can enhance focus and make the highlighted item more prominent.
  6. Animation: Utilize subtle animations to draw attention to critical areas. Animations can be particularly effective for onboarding tutorials or highlighting new features.

Best Practices for Implementing the Von Restorff Effect

  1. Balance and Moderation: While distinctiveness is crucial, avoid overusing the Von Restorff Effect, as too many standout elements can overwhelm users and dilute the impact.
  2. Relevance: Ensure that the elements you highlight are genuinely important to the user experience. Irrelevant emphasis can confuse users and detract from overall usability.
  3. Consistency: Maintain a consistent approach to using the Von Restorff Effect. For example, if color is used to highlight calls to action, use the same color scheme throughout the interface.
  4. User Testing: Conduct usability testing to see how users respond to the highlighted elements. Gather feedback to refine and optimize the design for better effectiveness.
  5. Accessibility Considerations: Ensure that the use of color and contrast meets accessibility standards, making the interface usable for people with visual impairments.

Real-World Examples

  1. E-commerce Websites: Amazon uses bright colors like yellow and orange to highlight “Add to Cart” and “Buy Now” buttons, making them stand out against the neutral background.
  2. Mobile Apps: Instagram highlights the notification tab with a distinct icon and color, drawing users’ attention to new interactions.
  3. Software Interfaces: In Microsoft Office, the “Save” icon is often highlighted with a different color or placed in a prominent position to ensure users can easily find it.
  4. Healthcare Applications: MyChart uses red to highlight critical alerts and notifications, ensuring they are immediately noticeable to users.
  5. Financial Services: Mint highlights important alerts and budget limits with distinct colors and icons, making sure users don’t miss crucial financial information.


The Von Restorff Effect is a valuable principle in UX design that can significantly enhance the usability and effectiveness of an interface. By strategically making key elements stand out through the use of color, size, shape, typography, and whitespace, designers can guide user attention, improve recall, and create a more engaging user experience. Implementing this effect thoughtfully and consistently ensures that the most important information and actions are communicated clearly and effectively.

Ondrej Zoricak
Ondrej Zoricak