The Aesthetic-Usability Effect, studied by Donald Norman (2002), states that the more aesthetically pleasing a product is, the more usable it is perceived to be and the more likely it is to therefore be used regardless of functionality. The reason for this Aesthetic-Usability Effect is that when a product or service is aesthetically pleasing to a consumer they build an emotional relationship with it: this relationship breeds a sense of loyalty and the consumer will stick by their choice even if they encounter problems with it. According to Bloch (1983), “visual appearance is the first thing a potential buyer notices about a product” and they are more sympathetic to faults or failures if a design is aesthetically pleasing, leading them to believe that the better-looking option is the better option overall.
For example, numerous studies have found that, technically, Apple products are not as usable as others on the market – meaning, people get tripped up more frequently and have a harder time understanding how to use the product than with other similar devices. However, Apple users either don’t notice or don’t care because Apple products are so aesthetically pleasing. The same concept has been found true of Mini Cooper cars, which have a lot of quirks (like the speedometer being located where the radio should be and the clock found on the ceiling), but people forgive these minor anomalies simply because they like the way it looks.
This principle has numerous applications in web design: when a customer visits a website they are likely to prefer those they enjoy looking at and feel good about using even if they don’t perform the tasks as effectively as another. It is therefore important to foster a positive attitude to your website by using an aesthetic web design to encourage positive feelings such as patience, loyalty and affection, which will lead to much greater long-term usability and success.