Aesthetic Usability Effect

A visually appealing design is perceived to be easier to use

A phenomenon where a good looking design is perceived as more usable than one that is less appealing, whether or not that is actually the case.

Masaaki Kurosu and Kaori Kashimura, researchers at Hitachi in Tokyo, demonstrated the aesthetic-usability effect in their study, Apparent Usability vs Inherent Usability: Experimental analysis on the determinants of the apparent usability. Their study measured the difference between the ‘inherent’ usability of a product and its ‘apparent’ usability by asking test participants to rate the beauty and usability of interfaces. It was shown that ‘the user may be strongly affected by the aesthetic aspect of the interface even when they try to evaluate the interface in its functional aspects’.

This effect may influence user opinion more than expected, affecting the user’s behaviour and their perception of the ease of use of a system. It can be witnessed in a wide range of design applications, from physical products to digital interfaces.