Aesthetic-Usability Effect (learning portfolio 1)

What is the Aesthetic-Usability Effect?
The aesthetic-useability effect, as explained in Universal Principles of Design, is the idea that products designed to be aesthetically pleasing to most consumers are viewed as being a more practical choice than products that are less aesthetically pleasing (Lidwell, 2003). Of course, not all products that are aesthetically appealing are the best choice in terms of usability and vice versa. It has been shown through extensive research that consumers are drawn to products first for their physical appearance and second for their efficiency; Products that simply appear to be better often overlook products that are easier to use (Lidwell, 2003).

It is argued that in order for a product to be aesthetically pleasing it must be harmonious. As described in Design Basics, “harmony can be defined as a pleasing arrangement of parts (Lauer, 2002)” which refers to anything that is pleasing to the senses i.e. sight, sound, touch and so forth. Harmonious qualities are what cause something to be aesthetic which in turn helps that particular thing become more readily accepted. Consumers seem to be drawn towards products with improved appearances regardless of whether they are or are not efficient to use; not all people can accept that aesthetics don’t always coincide with usability as in most cases the opposite occurs (Tractinsky, 1997).

While usability is often neglected for aesthetics it does not mean that all products that are pleasing to the eye are non-efficient. The idea of aesthetic-usability is simply that most consumers are drawn to products almost solely because of their physical attributes regardless of the level of efficiency. Mark Boulton argues that the design industry is beginning to understand this concept therefore “usability is becoming somewhat of a given (Boulton, 2005)”. Industries can claim that they are becoming more focused towards the user, however, it can not be entirely proven that these industries are creating products where the aesthetics are not in the way of the usability. Until then, the aesthetic-usability effect continues to define consumerism; People are more interested in the way something looks as opposed to the way it works.

Three Examples:
1) The iPhone

(Wholesale, D. 2012)
The Apple iPhone is a great example of the aesthetic-usability effect. The iPhone has been effectively designed to be visually appealing as well as a practical product. The iPhone has not only been designed to be aesthetically pleasing, but also shares a relationship with every other Apple product – consumers can apply a personal relationship with this product due to previous experiences with other Apple products such as the iPod, MacBook or iPad (Lidwell, 2003). However, the usability of an iPhone has come under some scrutiny. It is not the most technologically advanced smart phone on the market but despite this it still costs more than others with better usability. The aesthetics of the phone are what draw consumers to it with many people willing to pay that little bit extra just to own an iPhone, despite the fact that its’ aesthetics do not necessarily coincide with the usability (Tractinsky, 1997).

2) Facebook

(Bruner, J. 2011)
Facebook is another example of aesthetic-usability, however, in this case it can be argued that the aesthetics of Facebook actually enhance the usability. With their constant updating Facebook is almost guaranteeing a higher probability of being used (Lidwell, 2003). Not only are the updates quite frequent they also enhance the look and functionality of the site without needing to shut it down momentarily. An indication of Facebook’s aesthetic-usability can be seen by the vast movement of people leaving MySpace and opting to use Facebook instead. The perception that Facebook is easy to use comes down to the simple blue and white colour scheme, the fact that all posts are collaborated in chronological order, addition of profile pictures next to posts and so forth which not only pose as aesthetics but also improve the accessibility and usability of the site.

3) Stiletto Heels

Stiletto heels are often sought after, however despite their aesthetic appearance most wearers realise that they are not as comfortable as they would hope them to be. Footwear was once designed to both protect the wearer from the environment and to give them added support. Stiletto heels do in some ways protect the wearer from the environment, however, they are more so aesthetically pleasing than functional. The aesthetic-useability effect, as explained in Universal Principles of Design, is the idea that products designed to be aesthetically pleasing to most consumers are viewed as being a more practical choice than products that are less aesthetically pleasing (Lidwell, 2003). In the case of the stiletto, the outward appearance is what is sought after despite the lack of usability. People wear these shoes to make a fashion statement, despite the fact that they are uncomfortable, bad for your feet, can cause back problems through excessive wear, are not practical to walk or stand in for long periods of time and can contribute to falling. However, in the world of footwear and fashion aesthetic-usability prevails as stiletto heels are far more sought after than a pair of comfortable, arch supporting running sneakers.

Works Cited:
Boulton, M. (2005). Aesthetic-Usability Effect  Retrieved May 9, 2012, from

Bruner, J. (2011). Is Facebook Swallowing Up the Internet’s Data?  Retrieved May 20, 2012, from

Lauer, D. A., & Pentak, S. (2002). Balance. Design Basics (pp. 75-98). Australia: Wadsworth.

Lidwell, W., Holden, K., & Butler, J. (2003). Aesthetic-Usability Effect. In Universal Principles of Design (pp. 18-19). Massachusets: Rockport.

Tractinsky, N. (1997). Aesthetics and apparent usability: empirically assessing cultural and methodological issues.  Retrieved Retrieved May 9, 2012, from

Wholesale, D. (2012). IPHONE 4 ACCESSORIES, COVERS & MORE  Retrieved May 9, 2012, from


2 Responses to “Aesthetic-Usability Effect (learning portfolio 1)”

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    • 2 adrianaspadaccini 07/05/2014 at 10:30 AM

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