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When a website or product looks good, users enjoy using it more (assumption).

They may even have more patience with the interface, regardless if there are usability issues, etc.

How would you, technically, in UX terms, describe how a visually pleasant design contributes to the user's experience?


To clarify, I'm not asking about:

  • how to make a visually pleasing design
  • what makes a design visually pleasing
  • or, how to design functionally or with strong usability, etc

I'm asking specifically about how the attractiveness of a design affects the user and the way the interact with the interface.

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3 Answers 3

I'm sure there are more thorough answers out there, but off the top of my head, I can think of two main ways:

  1. Affordance

    Even now as we approach a world of flat colors and no shadows, the visual design of objects informs us how they can be used. The obvious pattern is the beveled button that looks clickable. (Even in this new iOS7-ified world, design and interaction is responsible for making items appear interactive, whether through gradients or animation).

  2. Psychological

    My favorite line when non-visual people tell me that design is just a coat of paint is from the ALA article In Defense of Eye Candy:

    How I think cannot be separated from how I feel.

    There's an aspect of apparent usability--an attractive interface could indicate greater care was taken when building the interface. It lends itself to credibility.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but we're visual creatures. Brilliant photographs can make us laugh or cry. If we're talking about user experience--the whole of the interactions we might have with a user--then design plays a pivotal role in setting the mood which then shades every interaction the user has.

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Great article! Love the quote/concept of "How I think cannot be separated from how I feel." –  DesignerGuy Aug 8 '13 at 22:36

When a website or product looks good, users enjoy using it more.

I'd go further and state: when a website or product looks and feels good, users enjoy using it more.

Affordance plays a part here, as the experience design sets constraints which can be seen as a system of channels in which users can operate to achieve their desired ends.

If an experience bends and flexes in ways that seem intuitive and obvious, a user is not confused, and they see themselves as having every capability required to achieve their desired ends.

Moreover, if the experience is beautifully crafted, it seems to me that a user is more likely to act on the capability they feel they have.

Question: Are you more likely to speed in a family sedan, or a new Porsche??

The user's feeling of capability coupled with the craftmanship inherent in an experience form a symbiotic relationship insofar as greater craftmanship excuses a feeling of lesser capability, and an increased feeling of capability excuses poor craftmanship. Add a great feeling of capability to beautiful craftmanship and you've got the winning combo, provided of course your experience means something to somebody.

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The speed I drive is a function of the surroundings and the abilities of the car. If the car looks good, that's a bonus, but not a factor when I'm concentrated on the road. –  Danny Varod Aug 11 '13 at 0:55

A product's appearance can affect multiple parameters e.g.

  • How professional you believe the company behind the product is (e.g. a major company vs. a hack job).

  • How comfortable you feel while staring at it (e.g. soft colors vs. noisy colors, high contrast vs. harder to read low contrast).

  • How easy it is to notice the important elements vs. distractions.

  • How to interact with it (e.g. what can be clicked, dragged, changed).

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