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I often have difficulty convincing people that the layout/design/visual-styling of an interface has impact on how the user feels about the product as whole. All to often the argument is that the user doesn't care about those kinds of things, they just want to do what the have to do and that's that.

While I do agree that users typically use your software as a means to an end and not to sit there and admire it, I strongly feel that the design impacts the overall opinion of the software. If poorly designed, it can make it feel clunky and annoying. When designed well, it can make it feel sleek (sometimes even make it appear to perform faster) and add to an overall pleasant experience.

Keep in mind that I am in no way advocating that the design should take precedence over the usability or functionality of the interface. I am simply taking it that extra step and making it more professional and visually appealing. So once again:

How can I convince someone that the visual layout/design of an interface has a positive impact on the user experience?

(In my particular situation, performing my own user testing and feedback is not really an option, so I would appreciate answers that do not involve running my own testing)

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5 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Plenty of good arguments and research here: Myth #25: Aesthetics are not important if you have good usability

My favorite quote from this article: «A study on the role of aesthetics concludes that, though attractive things may not score higher in performance, people perceive attractive things as more usable»

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+1 Thanks for the link. I use UX Myths all the time but sometimes I need to be reminded things. :) –  Matt Rockwell Jul 28 '11 at 12:43
    
Haha me too, I often have a hard time remembering where I found this one great article.... ;) –  Phil Jul 28 '11 at 12:55
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The alistapart.com/articles/indefenseofeyecandy article is incredibly thorough and comprehensive. I will be printing this one out for sure. –  Matt Rockwell Jul 28 '11 at 13:01
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Meinhald Thielsch, a german scientist did a research about the corralation between aestetics and usability. There is a tendency that nice looking websites perform better or can even compensate usability flaws. Good aesetics lead to a better user experience.

http://www.thielsch.org/index.php?style=8&style=8&path=m_plus_data/publikationen/webaesthetik

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Firstly, there's a significant difference between the interface layout and its decorations.

Do you think the layout of a car dashboard has a positive impact on the drivers driving experience? Maybe we should just throw the pedals, wheels and switches into the cabin and leave them where they land.

You can take an interface made of lines, boxes, placeholder images and icons all the way to user testing and get to a perfectly functional and eminently usable product. But how do you feel towards what the product stands for, what it means to you? If you think that branding is un-important, then tell that to the energy drink company that gives you wings. The product is no different to a dozen others, it doesn't taste so great and there are no unique benefits. It's success is down to branding alone.

It's not about attractive, it's about conveying a personality, an attitude, something I can believe in. Something I want to have in my life, and I want to bring it to my friends too.

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This University of Melbourne study found a correlation between "attractive" design and trust. They found that users are starting to interact with websites in much the same way that they interact with people, and that predictable biases start to emerge.

What they also found was that while a user might trust a website more if it is attractive, this does not extend to loyalty (this study was conducted in ecommerce): ultimately content and usability are more important.

I can't find a link to the study as of yet, but this article includes a couple more quotes and more context to the above link.

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+1 nice article thanks! –  Matt Rockwell Jul 28 '11 at 14:40
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I guess any interface design needs to be corroborated by testing, but I'll go with Don Norman's Attractive things work better:

Use a pleasing design, one that looks good and feels, well, sexy, and the behavior seems to go along more smoothly, more easily, and better. Attractive things work better.

Edit: and of course I hadn't realized that the first link of the previous answer includes this.

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Haha, no worries, it is a great article. :) –  Matt Rockwell Jul 28 '11 at 14:15
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