We often hear that when it comes to digital products, functionality is key for users. And that's absolutely true! A website or mobile app should solve their problems in an effective, easy, and intuitive way. But what happens when there are multiple products that can do the job? 

When the competition gets tough, people start looking beyond just functionality. They want something more. They crave aesthetic pleasure and emotional appeal. And in most cases, when faced with two equally good products, users will go for the one that's simply beautiful.

The Wow Factor: How Looks Influence User Experience

Let's face it: first impressions matter. You know, just like how people judge a book by its cover or swipe left or right on dating apps. 

“That's where the aesthetic-usability effect kicks in. It's all about how attractive products are seen as more user-friendly. We tend to believe that if something looks good, it must work well, even if that's not always the case in reality.”

When it comes to design, aesthetics play a big role. They have the power to make us more forgiving of design flaws. Take a look at Apple products.

Aesthetic Usability

Sure, they're well-designed, but their sleek and pleasing appearance also helps them justify their hefty price tags and keeps users more tolerable. Even though they might not be 100% perfect in terms of usability, we cut them some slack because they look so darn good.

That's why it's not enough to have a functional user interface alone. It's worth putting in the effort to design something that not only works great but also looks stunning. By creating a visually appealing design, we can capture people's attention, create positive vibes, and make them more excited about using our products or services.

The First Experiment

Aesthetic Usability Effect

Back in 1995, the Hitachi Design Center decided to dig deeper into this concept. Researchers Masaaki Kurosu and Kaori Kashimura conducted a study where they tested 26 different variations of an ATM user interface with 252 participants. 

They asked the participants to rate each design based on how easy it was to use and how aesthetically appealing it looked. Guess what they found? 

The ratings for aesthetic appeal had a stronger correlation with perceived ease of use compared to the ratings for real ease of use. So, even when users are trying to evaluate the functionality of a system, the aesthetics still have a powerful impact on their overall experience.

The Second Experiment

There’s an interesting story regarding this aesthetic-usability effect. Noam Tractinsky, an Israeli scientist, had doubts about the previous experiment. He believed that social and cultural factors could have influenced the results. Tractinsky suggested that "aesthetic preferences may depend on culture," noting that Japanese culture values aesthetics. 

To test his ideas, in 2000 Tractinsky conducted a similar experiment in Israel. He used the same ATM layouts from the Japanese study but translated them into Hebrew. With careful controls in place, he aimed to prove his assumptions against the Japanese researchers' conclusions. However, the results surprised him.

Not only did Tractinsky confirm the Japanese findings, but the correlation between how appealing participants found the designs and their perception of ease of use was even stronger among Israelis than the Japanese. 

Usability & Aesthetics: Which Comes First?

These two experiments indeed prove that there’s a close connection between beauty and usability in our brains.

“However, it's important to keep noting that the aesthetic-usability effect does have its limitations. While a visually pleasing design can make users more forgiving of minor usability issues, it can't magically fix major problems.” 

Finding the sweet spot between form and function is crucial. These two elements must collaborate to create an exceptional user experience.

Aesthetic Usability Effect
Source: https://andersun.com/blog/aesthetic-usability-effect/

Let's use a restaurant as an example. Imagine you try a new dish at a restaurant. The way it looks when it's served to you plays a big role in your first impression. It makes you excited to taste it. But if the taste doesn't match your expectations, you might not want to try it again.

“When launching a new digital product, aesthetics can be a key factor in attracting users, but usability is what truly keeps them engaged for the long haul.”

So here's the approach: Start by establishing a solid information flow or architecture. Build a strong foundation before focusing on aesthetics. Ensure that all the important information is properly incorporated, without compromising on visual appeal.

While an aesthetically pleasing design is desirable, it shouldn't overshadow the essential aspects. It's like embellishing a dish with garnishes but forgetting the main ingredients - not ideal! 

Elements to Add Aesthetics to the Design

You want to add some aesthetics to your design? Well, there are a few elements that can help you achieve that:

Layout: Make sure to arrange your content and visuals in a way that's visually pleasing and well-organized. A clean and balanced layout can work wonders.

Typography: Choose fonts and styles that give your design a unique and attractive look. Typography can set the tone and add personality.

Illustrations: Inject some creativity and personality into your design by incorporating custom illustrations or graphics. They can make your design stand out.

Photos: Select high-quality images that are relevant to your design. Engaging visuals can grab users' attention and evoke emotions.

Animation: Add subtle animations or transitions to bring your design to life. They can enhance user engagement and make interactions more enjoyable.

3D Graphics: If it fits your project, consider using three-dimensional elements to add depth and visual interest. Just be mindful of not overdoing it.

Remember, it's important to maintain consistency throughout your design. Creating brand guidelines and a design system can help you achieve that. These resources ensure that your design stays cohesive and aligned with your unique style.

Have a project in mind?
Call Us!

Help you figure out how to approach your problems.
Help answer questions related to services provided by Natuno.
Get timeline and cost estimation for your projects.