Aesthetic Usability Effect

Question 1:

In your own words, write a summary of the article and provide critical analysis/ discussion on the  topic of the article (300 – 350 words)

The “Aesthetic Usabilty Effect” is an article that is written by Lidwell, Holden and Butler in 2003 that describes the aesthetic usability phenomenon as the perception where users perceive ‘more- aesthetic designs’ as easy to use, and ‘less-  aesthetic designs’ as not easy. This phenomenon then allows the user to either develop a positive or negative relationship towards the design that evoking a range of emotions, feelings, and attitudes (Lidwell, Holden, & Butler, 2003).

For example, the aesthetic usability effect can be easily compared to human attractiveness (Lidwell, Holden, & Butler, 2003). From personal experience, I have noticed that when meeting new people, we always tend to go for the nicer looking ones. First impressions are always very important, and they have a huge influence on how people are perceived and treated. The way you appear to a person will create a personal statement about himself. Your clothes, grooming, hairstyle, accessories, etc ate responsible for 95% of the first impression you make on someone, and it will make a statement that will or will not help to put you in a position to influence someone. (Tracy, 2015)

To put it in simple terms, “the aesthetic usability effect is where a user will perceive an attractive product as easier to use than an ugly one,”Ashley Towers for Usability Friction (2010). Which is true! Take the iPhone vs Andriod debate for example. Samsung’s can actually do so much more than iPhones can, you can add widgets, customise the apps, and a 16 mega- pixel camera compared to the iPhone’s 8 mega- pixel. But why do many people still prefer iPhone’s over Android? Because it looks pretty! Studies show that a pleasing design of a product is placed under the category of an aesthetic design conditioning the user to correlate the information towards other products. The conditioning information should be used as a guideline for the consumer market to use the skills to spend money on research and to design products with simplicity. (Usability Friction, 2010)

In 2010, A. Sonderegger and J. Sauer conducted an experiment on 60 participants that supports the assumption made by Usability Friction that a more visually appealing design is thought of as easier to use. Participants were given 2 phones with identical systems, leaving one of them visually appealing and the other not. This resulted in the nicer looking phone being ‘more usable’ according to participants, proving that the phones appearance affected the users performance.

Question 2:

Study 3 examples (e.g. products found in everyday surroundings) that meet the aesthetic‐usability  effect principle.

Google is a great example of something that meets the aesthetic usability effect principle. It is so much more visually appealing and simple compared to competitor Yahoo. The Google homepage for example, isn’t cramped up with news updates, shared, entertainment info, and allows the user to easily search for any information they may need. Google has been slowly intergrated into our daily lives because it can be used to find out any information you may need. I have found that I myself say “I don’t know, Google it,” at least 3 times a day whenever I am asked a question I don’t have the answer to because it takes so much less effort just to type it in- you don’t even have to go to, all you need is to type it into the search/ URL bar.

Figure 1 – Google Search
Figure 2 – Yahoo Search

The iPad, light, simple and easy to use, was released in 2010 allowing users to have easy access to music, the web, a camera, and free apps they could do things such as assignments on. Its light weight and sleek design made it an instant big hit with users, and is still used daily my many students, office workers or parents who find it too hard to carry around big laptops.

Figure 3 – iPads over the years

Just talking design alone, the iPhone looks so much more visually appealing than the Samsung Galaxy. It’s metal body gives the iPhone a sleek sophisticated look, compared to the tacky plastic cover of the Samsung Galaxy. iPhones are also way smaller and manageable in size allowing the user to be able to use the phone with one rather than two hands.

Figure 4 – Samsung vs Apple


Extreme Tech. (2014). iPhone vs Android. Retrieved from×196.jpg

Kitguru. (2014). iPad screenshot. Retrieved from

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

Sonderegger, A., Sauer, J. (2010). The influence of design aesthetics in usability testing: Effects on user performance and perceived usability. Applied Ergonomics (41), 405-409.

Tracy, B. (2015). The Importance of First Impressions. Retrieved October 30, 2015 from

Uber Gizmo. (2009). Yahoo Homepage. Retrieved from

Usability Friction: Aesthetic Usability Effect. (2008). Retrieved from

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s