There is an ongoing argument between website designers as to whether good aesthetics are as important, if not more important than usability within a website.
Usability designers tend to dismiss the importance of aesthetics and argue that as long as a website is otherwise user friendly, that appearances don’t matter very much. But Visual designers of course make the argument that aesthetics are highly important.
So which argument holds true?
Research, as well as common sense shows us that aesthetics are indeed very important, and that people tend to gravitate toward and focus more on attractive things.
A 2005 study titled Do “Attractive Things Work Better”? – An Exploration of Search Tool Visualizations concluded that “Research holds that aesthetic judgments are related to usability judgments prior to the use of a system and this association persists after the use of a system occurs.”
Human centered design expert Don Norman is the author of the book Emotion design. Norman goes into great detail in his study of how aesthetics affect people emotionally. He concludes by that, “Advances in our understanding of emotion and affect have implications for the science of design. Affect changes the operating parameters of cognition: positive affect enhances creative, breadth-first thinking whereas negative affect focuses cognition, enhancing depth-first processing and minimizing distractions. Therefore, it is essential that products designed for use under stress follow good human-centered design, for stress makes people less able to cope with difficulties and less flexible in their approach to problem solving. Positive affect makes people more tolerant of minor difficulties and more flexible and creative in finding solutions. Products designed for more relaxed, pleasant occasions can enhance their usability through pleasant, aesthetic design. Aesthetics matter: attractive things work better.”
In addition to what the experts and research tell us, the common sense factor when it is considered adds further confirmation to the thesis. A lot of it comes down to simple first impressions.
Consider how the vast majority of people would react if they were purchasing a car. Say a consumer walks into a showroom in South Florida and there are two cars at an identical price with identical usability, but the consumer doesn’t know they are identical in those regards. But one car is far more attractive visually, and the other car is very plain. Which car is the average consumer more likely to inquire about first? Certainly most people would choose the more attractive car as their first inquiry, and certainly once they learned that the two are otherwise comparable they would choose it over the less attractive car. Even if the less attractive car has better usability and other features, many people still may choose the flashy car simply because of its appearance.
Websites are no different than purchasing a car in regards to how people tend to make their first impressions. First impressions are almost always based on visual factors and are made within mere seconds, especially when it comes to website design. But while aesthetics are highly important, they cannot stand totally on their own. Let’s say the flashy car doesn’t run properly, how many people would choose to purchase it after taking it for a test drive? Probably none. The same is true of a website. If the user cannot easily navigate the site they will not likely continue to use it.
It goes without saying that the most effective websites seamlessly combine both usability and good aesthetics within their design. But doing that is no easy task and requires a lot of expertise. That is why people seeking the best possible website for their brand should seek the services of a top website design company like Dsquared Media.
Dsquared Media can build you a website from scratch, and in addition to designing good aesthetics and usability, they also can provide good SEO services which will ensure a site stays atop the search ratings. After all, if no one visits your site, then all the aesthetics and usability will make no difference. But when all those aspects are combined, a site can quickly become a high traffic site and generate great business.