Neurologically Sublime: Wired for all the Pretty Things

The study of aesthetics has long been confined to a shelf dense with the works of philosophers and artists in an Olympian output of theory and claptrap – but when it comes to design, sometimes human behavior can provide another angle into the search for truth in beauty.

We perceive attractively designed applications and sites as being easier to use, a concept known as the Aesthetic-Usability Effect. This wonderfully important notion may seem like a common sense starting point for any designer, but as more research investigates the role of aesthetics in human-computer interactions, their findings stir up the squirrely debate on a biological tendency towards that which pleases the eye.

Beyond the science, however, lies an audience that must be spoken to – and while usability is paramount, we sometimes forget that aesthetics retains an audience through a uniqueness of design.  As an increasing number of companies invest in their online presence, the Aesthetic-Usability Effect becomes the means by which a designer can stand out among the competition via these powerful perceptions.

Consider the trope of letting the racket do all the work: alike, good design will inform and enrich the hard work of plodding and planning your site’s architecture. And this is not about fooling the audience into the mere perception of increased usability; the truth – in and of a designer’s beautiful design – is that the well-designed site is usually by de facto a highly usable site!

Now, if only Hegel were a web designer…