what is meant by Aesthetic appeal of the software? this is used in usability of a software but i don't know what is Aesthetic appeal in software engineering, please anyone help me explain it with a simple example.


2 Answers 2


Aesthetic appeal is highly subjective yet we can say that most of people perceive simple looking products to be more aesthetically pleasing. Almost everyone has a different definition of aesthetic appeal of a software product.

Users generally think if the product looks good then it is usable. Which is not always true. Most of the times the usability issues do not get highlighted as the UI looks aesthetically pleasing(beautiful icons, vibrant colors and clean and simply structured data.)

While performing usability tests with low fidelity designs we find that users are more likely to report actual usability issues than performing the same tests with high fidelity designs.

Aesthetic appeal varies from user to user. For example, a Music Producer will rate a software tool to be more aesthetically appealing if the design is skeuomorphic(i.e the components resembles the actual knobs and buttons).

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    Yep. You can build things which look pretty, yet are completely unusable. Apple's 'puck' mouse is an example.
    – PhillipW
    Nov 9, 2020 at 13:36

Aesthetics (from Old Greek αἴσθησις aísthēsis = perception) refers to how something is perceived or experienced by the human senses. The term in the strictest sense encompasses the whole spectrum along which any sensory response is be processed, from joy and delight to disgust and revulsion.

In everyday speech as well as the context of design 'aesthetic' has a positive bias and is used as a synonym to 'beautiful' or 'tasteful'. A common synonym is the 'look and feel' of a digital product. Aesthetics as a scholarly discipline - simplistically put - seeks to understand how and why we find something beautiful. This positive connotation is implicit in any design work.

Appeal (from Latin appellāre = to call) in this context means to invoke some sensory response (i.e. the opposite of boredom, tedium, or indifference).

Put together, any piece of artifice including a digital construct like software has aesthetic appeal if it engages its user by speaking to his or her senses, complementary to understandable information architecture, learnable interaction patterns, and work flow sequencing that supports execution of a task.

In other words, the UX of a piece of software might be 'doing all the right things' intellectually and behaviourally but lack surface finesse and quality (usually visual) that keeps its user at ease throughout by maintaining a positive visceral/sensory response. In human-machine interaction aesthetic appeal plays the same exact role taken up by good manners and courtesy in human-human interaction.

Users are typically much more forgiving of interaction design glitches in a software environment that compensates for these points of friction through consistently high UI style quality, and subconsciously attribute higher credibility to aesthetically pleasing digital products than 'ugly' ones.

As to usability versus software engineering: The relationship is not adversarial. It is roughly the same as in our visibly built artificial environment. You can build fully utilitarian bridges or railway stations that do the job alright, but are a lasting eyesore to the public. Or you can strive to integrate ambitious aesthetics and engineering brilliance and produce iconic pieces of infrastructure like Santiago Calatrava.

Since you asked for software examples: Google initially relied on the sheer processing prowess of its search engine algorithms; it was pure engineering but klutzy and nerdish to look at (which has since changed drastically). Craigs List was likewise extremely basic in terms of look and feel, but that was balanced rather well by extreme simplicity of use. By contrast, Lotus Notes, for those of us old enough to remember, came across as pure technology push that (initially at least) failed to mitigate its interactive complexity - its creators were under the belief that technical capability was all that was required. That may work well in a business monopoly situation, at least for a while. Fast forward a bit: No travel or ride share site like AirBnB or Uber could nowadays afford to lack aesthetic appeal and remain in business for very long.

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    Since Tractinsky's paper "What is beautiful is usable", effect of aesthetics on usability has been a topic of research. Most research I've read have debunked this notion, like Hamborg, Hülsmann and Kaspar in their paper "The Interplay between Usability and Aesthetics: More Evidence for the 'What Is Usable Is Beautiful' Notion". They actually show that it is the other way round: what is usable is beautiful. downloads.hindawi.com/journals/ahci/2014/946239.pdf Oct 16, 2019 at 5:13

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