Changing only the aesthetic features of a product can affect its apparent usability
Three experiments were conducted to investigate the relationship between usability and aesthetics with students and older people. A common mechanical domestic appliance, the can opener, was chosen as a proxy for future digital products. The experiments involved comparing the rated usability of can openers that had been painted to make them more or less aesthetically pleasing. Experiment 1 tested students’ ratings of beauty and usability. Experiment 2 similarly tested an elderly population on their ratings before and after use. In general, the products rated more beautiful were rated as more usable. To avoid the possibility that rating a product for its aesthetic qualities could somehow affect its subsequent rating for usability, Experiment 3 repeated Experiment 2 but products were only rated for usability. In Experiments 1 and 3 the manipulation of product features associated only with aesthetic qualities of the product (painting the can openers) also significantly affected ratings of usability. The results are related to Hassenzahl’s model of user experience, and interpreted in terms of the holistic evaluation of product features in judgements of hedonic and pragmatic attributes. The results confirm and extend previous findings and highlight the importance of aesthetic considerations as well as usability in all forms of design.
KeywordsUser Experience Product Feature Usability Rating Aesthetic Quality Objective Usability
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