We stand with Ukraine and our team members from Ukraine.

A Community Of Over 740,000

Home ›› Customer Experience ›› The Aesthetic-Usability Effect: Why beautiful-looking products are preferred over usable-but-not-beautiful ones.

The Aesthetic-Usability Effect: Why beautiful-looking products are preferred over usable-but-not-beautiful ones.

by Abhishek Chakraborty
4 min read
Share this post on


Users are strongly influenced by the aesthetics of any given interface, even when they try to evaluate the system’s underlying functionality.

The aesthetic-usability effect describes a phenomenon in which people perceive more-aesthetic designs as easier to use than less-aesthetic designs.

The effect has been observed in several experiments and has significant implications regarding the acceptance, use, and performance of a design.

Researchers Masaaki Kurosu and Kaori Kashimura from the Hitachi Design Center first studied this effect in 1995. They tested 26 variations of an ATM UI, asking the 252 study participants to rate each design on ease of use, as well as aesthetic appeal.

They found a stronger correlation between the participants’ ratings of aesthetic appeal and perceived ease of use than the correlation between their ratings of aesthetic appeal and actual ease of use.

It was concluded that users are strongly influenced by the aesthetics of any given interface, even when they try to evaluate the underlying functionality of the system. In his book Emotional Design, Don Norman explores this concept in-depth as it applies to everyday objects.

Aesthetic designs, in general, look easier to use and have a higher probability of being used, whether or not they actually are easier to use. Whereas, more usable but less-aesthetic designs may suffer a lack of acceptance that renders issues of usability debates.

Apart from having a great UX, it is equally important to have great UI and Visual Design.

These perceptions bias users’ subsequent interactions with the product and are usually resistant to change. Studies show that early impressions of a product influence long-term attitudes about their quality and use.

A similar phenomenon is well documented with regard to human attractiveness — first impressions of people influence attitude formation and measurably affect how people are perceived and treated.

There is a reason why dating apps work. No matter what people say, first impressions do make an impact. People do judge a book by its cover.

Aesthetics also play an important role in the way a design is used. Aesthetic designs are more effective at fostering positive attitudes than unaesthetic designs and make people more tolerant of design problems.

Consider Apple products. iTunes, iMovie, and even the iPhone aren’t devoid of usability flaws. But we are more tolerant towards them, considerably more than what we would be towards any other less well-designed piece of equipment.

Also, it is common for people to develop feelings toward designs that have fostered positive attitudes, and rare for people to do the same with designs that have fostered negative attitudes.

Moreover, such personal and positive relationships with a design evoke feelings of affection, loyalty, and patience — all significant factors in the long-term usability and overall success of a design.

For example, a lot of people have a strong affection for their cars. Some go as far as to name their cars and treat them like pets. They love their pets as their children, even if they have one or two flaws.

These positive relationships also have implications for how effectively people interact with designs. Positive relationships with a design result in an interaction that helps catalyze creative thinking and problem-solving. The product is treated like a friend or a companion.

On the contrary, negative relationships result in an interaction that narrows thinking and stifles creativity. This is especially important in stressful environments since stress increases fatigue and reduces cognitive performance.

If your cab booking app doesn’t look very cool in the first place and makes the blunder of mistakenly crashing at a crucial time when the user is in a hurry, it will surely face the full wrath of the user, compared to a sleek and polished app.

In such situations, there is a good chance that people might start hating the product for no apparent reason or fault of its own. Aesthetics play a very important role here. Good looks help prevent this to a great level.


Braun puts a lot of aesthetic value in their products

But, bear in mind that the aesthetic-usability effect has its limits as well. A pretty design can make users more forgiving of minor usability problems, but not of larger ones. (As the first law of e-commerce states, if the user can’t find the product, the user can’t buy the product. Even great-looking sites will have no revenue if they suffer from poor findability.)

Form and function should work together. When interfaces suffer from severe usability issues, or when usability is sacrificed for aesthetics, users tend to lose patience. On the web, people are very quick to leave. On the phone, they are quick to delete.


Aesthetically pleasing interfaces are worth the investment, especially when you already have a competitor in the market. Visual designs that appeal to users have the side effects of making your site appear orderly, well designed, and professional. Users are more likely to want to try a visually appealing product, and they’re more patient with minor issues.

However, this effect is at its strongest when the aesthetics serve to support and enhance the content and functionality of the product. Visual Design is always preceded by good UX and Product Design.


Aesthetic designs make people more tolerant of design problems

post authorAbhishek Chakraborty

Abhishek Chakraborty,

7+ years of experience in startups—as a consultant, founder, designer, and manager. I've mostly worked in the zero-to-one phase of a business—building and launching products (both consumer and B2B).


Related Articles

How adapting our products to different locations led to better business results and happier users.

Article by Rotem Maor
The Power of Localization in User Experience
  • In the article, the author describes how Wix, with over 238 million users, focuses on providing a localized experience for their non-English-speaking users.
  • Good localization builds trust with users, which benefits the business in the long run. The article demonstrates how Wix adapts to Japanese, French, Brazilian, and other cultures.
  • The author gives advice on how to promote localization in your own company:
    • Raise awareness of its importance and value.
    • Consider factors such as language, cultural sensitivity, currency, date formats, gender, and local etiquette.
    • Attribute resources to localization and involve them in the design process early on.
Share:The Power of Localization in User Experience
5 min read

Robb and Josh talk about the elevated levels of risk and experimentation required to move hyperautomation forward.

Article by UX Magazine Staff
Share:Invisible Machines Podcast: High Risk and Lots of Experimentation
1 min read
Article by Nate Schloesser
Using AI to Break Down Barriers in UX Design
  • In the article, the author explores the potential AI has to enhance accessibility in UX design by learning and adapting to individual users with disabilities.
  • The article covers these 7 techniques for enhancing accessibility with AI:
    • Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text
    • Image Recognition and Description
    • Voice Recognition
    • Personalization and Adaptation
    • Predictive Text and Autocomplete
    • Context-Aware Computing
    • Assistive Technologies
  • The demand for accessible and inclusive design will continue to increase, making it crucial for designers and developers to stay up-to-date on the latest advances in AI and accessibility.
Share:Using AI to Break Down Barriers in UX Design
11 min read

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Check our privacy policy and