The Aesthetic-Usability Principle is a concept in which more attractive things are viewed as simpler to use, whether they are or not. This principle is evident in more than just in the digital world, as more aesthetically pleasing objects, such as people or cars, are often more desirable than their less attractive counterparts.
Aesthetics play a major role in the design of digital and print communication (Liua, Schmidta & Sridharan, 2009). If a user views a certain design as simpler to use and navigate, they are obviously more likely to use that medium or page, and as such it is vital that the aesthetics of a design are appealing. Designs that are more visually stimulating and pleasing can create improved emotional relationships between the user and the medium (Fishwick, 2006). Aside from aesthetically appealing information being more likely to be used, as described by the Aesthetic-Usability Principle, it is also easier to read and navigate, leading to more efficient information transfer (Thyssen, 2010).
In order to make a design more aesthetically pleasing:
- Use basic graphics: Too much visual stimuli can confuse the eye.
- Visuals: Photographs and illustrations give the eyes an area to rest.
- Tailor the design to a specific audience: Know your audience and design according to their needs and likes (Laura, 2013).
Butler, Holden and Lidwell’s (2003) article on the Aesthetic-Usability Effect emphasises the need for aesthetic design and the emotional repercussions that positive aesthetic designs can have. It explains tangible examples which make the concept easier to understand and recognise in everyday life. Though the article references the original works on which the principle is based, expansive research and studies are not cited, which reduces its credibility. The title of the principle is coined in this article also, which is said to not appear in the original research or further studies. This makes it increasingly difficult to search for further information, as there is no universal term to describe the phenomenon.
Butler, J., Holden, K., & Lidwell, W. (2003). Aesthetic‐Usability Effect. In Universal Principles of Design (pp. 18‐19). Massachusetts: Rockport
Fishwick, Paul A. (2006). Aesthetic Computing. USA: MIT Press.
Laura. (2013). The Aesthetic Usability Effect – It’s Design Magic! , 2015, from http://www.captovate.com.au/blog/aesthetic-usability-effect-its-design-magic
Liua, Y., Schmidta, K. E., & Sridharan, S. (2009). Webpage aesthetics, performance and usability: Design variables and their effects. Ergonomics, 52(6), 631-643.
Thyssen, O. (2010). Aethetic Communication. UK: Palgrave Macmillan.