Usability vs. Aesthetics

by Tom Kenny (@tkenny)

I’ve been thinking about the role of aesthetics in design and usability a great deal lately. I’m currently in the research stage of writing an article about it but this article by Marty Cagan outlines some points I completely agree with.

Two edge cases in particular struck me as interesting. On the one hand, so many of the graphic/visual design firms have these beautiful, artistic sites, that are difficult to read and poorly structured. On the other hand, many of the interaction design firms have very usable sites that are easy to navigate and find the info you need, yet are boring, primitive and unappealing.

You can show the exact same functionality to a user, one with wireframes and one with a good visual design, and the overall response can be dramatically different. I’ll discuss this in more detail in a future article.

Things have improved since the article was written in 2006 but there’s still plenty of work to do.


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by Tom Kenny

I’m a freelance web designer and front-end developer with 9 years of experience designing for the web. Follow me on Twitter here.