The Aesthetic -Usability effect refers to a tendency to perceive aesthetically pleasing designs as a design that is more useable.
In a study done in 1995, in the field of human-computer interaction by the Hitachi Design Centre where 26 variations of an ATM user interface were shown to 252 participants to rate the ease of use of each design, as well as the aesthetic appeal. The study found a strong correlation between the participants’ ratings of aesthetic appeal and perceived ease of use rather than the correlation between aesthetic appeal and actual ease of use. The study concluded that users are greatly influenced by the aesthetics of any given interface, even when trying to evaluate the functionality of the system.
It was discovered that the aesthetically pleasing designs create a positive response in people’s brains which leads them to believe the product functions better. In other words, the more positive emotional response to a visual design makes the user more tolerant of minor usability issues on your site or product. This effect is a major reason why a good user experience must be more than a functional UI it also needs to look good.
The aesthetic-usability effect does however have its limitations. While having a visually pleasing product will make users more tolerant of minor functionality issues it will not mask major issues which may lead to frustration and the user leaving your site/product. Even the best-looking app or website will have a high bounce rate and lose revenue if it is difficult for the consumer to navigate and find what they want. When it comes to UX/Ui the effect shows how important it is to have form and function working together rate than sacrificing a bit in one of those areas. If you sacrifice useability for aesthetics the user will become impatient and likely move onto your competitors’ sites but if you sacrifice aesthetics for functionality, you won’t have anything to catch the eye of and attract your consumers.
The aesthetic-usability effect plays a major role in UX research as it allows UX designers to find which minor issues won’t be a problem for the user and it allows them to focus more on the larger functionality issues with the product. Always keep this effect in mind when designing your product and ensure the right balance between form and function.