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Is beautiful usable? What is the influence of beauty and usability on reactions to a product?

May 14, 2012

Posted by Javier Bargas-Avila, Senior User Experience Researcher at YouTube UX Research

Did you ever come across a product that looked beautiful but was awful to use? Or stumbled over something that was not nice to look at but did exactly what you wanted?

Product usability and aesthetics are coexistent, but they are not identical. To understand how usability and aesthetics influence reactions to a product, we conducted an experimental lab study with 80 participants. We created four versions of an online clothing shop varying in beauty (high vs. low) and usability (high vs. low). Participants had to find a number of items in one of those shops and buy them. To understand how the factors of beauty and usability influence final users happiness, we measured how they much they liked the shop before and after interaction.

The results showed that the beauty of the interface did not affect how users perceived the usability of the shops: Participants (or Users) were capable of distinguishing if a product was usable or not, no matter how nice it looked. However, the experiment showed that the usability of the shops influenced how users rated the products' beauty. Participants using shops with bad usability rated the shops as less beautiful after using the shops. We showed that poor usability lead to frustration, which put the users in a bad mood and made them rate the product as less beautiful than before interacting with the shop.

Successful products should be beautiful and usable. Our data provide insight into how these factors work together.