Aesthetics and UIs
April 21st, 2009 by ravi

Much impressed as I am by Google products and services, I have been left cold by their not merely spartan but aesthetically displeasing user interfaces. You may disagree with me on that, and you may be right (I have no background in either design or aesthetics!), but still find the below from A List Apart (via Daring Fireball) interesting:

Attractive things work better

Okay, so maybe perceptions are important to product design. But what about “real” usability concerns such as lower task completion times or fewer difficulties? Do attractive products actually work better? This idea was tested in a study conducted in 1995 (and then again in 1997). Donald Norman describes it in detail in his book Emotional Design.

Researchers in Japan setup two ATMs, “identical in function, the number of buttons, and how they worked.” The only difference was that one machine’s buttons and screens were arranged more attractively than the other. In both Japan and Israel (where this study was repeated) researchers observed that subjects encountered fewer difficulties with the more attractive machine. The attractive machine actually worked better.

So now we’re left with this question: why did the more attractive but otherwise identical ATM perform better?

Norman offers an explanation, citing evolutionary biology and what we know about how our brains work. Basically, when we are relaxed, our brains are more ?exible and more likely to find workarounds to difficult problems. In contrast, when we are frustrated and tense, our brains get a sort of tunnel vision where we only see the problem in front of us.

[From A List Apart: Articles: In Defense of Eye Candy]

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