Web and App designers spend a lot of their time creating products that focus on functionality. But I’d just like to take a moment to talk about one of the reasons we spend just as much time refining a product and making it look as good as possible.
People like to use and surround themselves with things that they find aesthetically pleasing. With the shift in focus toward User Experience you cannot underestimate the importance of creating a nice looking product. A lot of clients don't realize that users find aesthetically pleasing products easier to use. This is called the Aesthetic-Usability Effect.
This is not a hard and fast rule (but really what design theory is). How it works is: users tend to be more forgiving of slow load times or overlook flaws in functionality if they’re experiencing a design that they find impressive or pleasing.
Valuable User Interaction
Time and time again I come across websites that are crammed full of text, call-to-actions, links etc. Usually two things have happened, the client has specifically asked for it, or their marketing department just realized that people click on call-to-action buttons.
Although this is a designers worst nightmare the fault mostly lies with them. As a part of being a good designer you must develop a trusting relationship with your client and to some extent, educate them on the value of good aesthetic design (I realise time constrains affect this, but who else is going to do it?).
55% of users spend an average of 15 seconds on a new website. This means you have 15 seconds to either wow them, give them valuable / useful content or give them something to interact with. Doing the first two is difficult (and often risky), that's why clients will usually go for the big red button. The vast majority of websites are built with the intention of return visits. The chance of this increases dramatically if the user leaves with a positive mindset. If it is really good, then they will share it, which is advertising you can’t buy (well not easily).
The Value of a Positive Mindset
A large part of User Experience is acknowledging their mindset when first encountering your website but also the one you would like them to have when using and leaving it. Donald Norman talks about this here.
Norman talks about how people in a negative mindset become focused on a task, they become pragmatic and decisive. This allows them to do a number of simple tasks very quickly. For some websites this might be fine, intra-nets for example. However it also gives people “tunnel vision” making them unable to engage in complex or creative processes.
One consequence of a negative mindset is that users are less open to suggestion.
“Positive affect broadens the thought processes, making it more easily distracted.” Norman, D.
The statistics show the longer someone stays on a website the more likely they are to return / buy something / share it etc. So not only does an aesthetically pleasing website make the user more forgiving of flaws, it also makes them more open to your content.
Risks? What Risks?
Aesthetic-Usability Effect is only one result of a carefully considered design (one of the smallest) with brand association being one of the biggest.
As web designers we a constantly hitting road blocks put up by stake-holders and marketing departments who get anxious when you don't have a giant red call-to-action button in the middle of the landing page. Hopefully this post will have given you insight into the mind of a user when they use a web / app.