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Beautiful does not always mean usable

 
Gerry McGovern's picture

It’s good to make your website or application as beautiful as possible, but not at the expense of usefulness.

“Did you ever come across a product that looked beautiful but was awful to use? Or stumbled over something that was not nice to look at but did exactly what you wanted?” These questions are asked by Javier Bargas-Avila, a senior user experience researcher at YouTube.

In May 2012 YouTube published results of a study where they had “created four versions of an online clothing shop varying in beauty (high vs. low) and usability (high vs. low). Participants had to find and buy a number of items in one of those shops. To understand how the factors of beauty and usability influence final users happiness, we measured how much they liked the shop before and after interaction.”

“The results showed that the beauty of the interface did not affect how users perceived the usability of the shops,” Bargas-Avila continued. “Participants (or Users) were capable of distinguishing if a product was usable or not, no matter how nice it looked. However, the experiment showed that the usability of the shops influenced how users rated the products’ beauty. Participants using shops with bad usability rated the shops as less beautiful after using them. We showed that poor usability lead to frustration, which put the users in a bad mood and made them rate the product as less beautiful than before interacting with the shop.”

Ease of use is a tsunami tearing across the world. In our own studies we see again and again that if the customer can’t quickly and easily complete their task their impression of the website or application falls off a cliff. “So, John, you didn’t quite manage to book your flight to Dublin on our site, but could you please tell us how well you enjoyed our content? And did you like our new look and feel?”

“What people want most from their smartphones, tablets, home theater and home appliances is simplicity,” according to the Ketchum global study of 6,000 consumers published in May 2012.

“The most surprising finding in the study is the overwhelming desire for simplification,” said Esty Pujadas, partner and director of Ketchum’s Global Technology Practice. “It seems counter-intuitive when technology is always about being bigger or better or faster, but the data show that what people really want is to understand how all of these devices can get them to their desired experience easily. Manufacturers need to use less so-called jargon monoxide and communicate more about the human experience, not just about the object.”

Organization and professional ego often work against simplicity. Over the years I have heard very many senior managers say that they want their website to have the wow factor. Unfortunately, at a management level vanity sometimes trumps sanity. Designers are often beautiful people. They dress well and they want their websites and applications to be seen to be well-dressed.

Beauty is highly desirable but simplicity and usefulness are the overwhelming fashion of our age. Just because it’s beautiful does not mean it’s useful.

Global Study of 6,000 Consumers: 76% Left Wanting More from Personal Technology When It Comes to Simplifying Their Life

Is beautiful usable? What is the influence of beauty and usability on reactions to a product?

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