Make it pretty: Why you need to spend time making things look good

Last week I wrote a post about design and how important it is in everything we do – simply acknowledging this and being more thoughtful about design is likely to improve the quality of whatever you’re working on. In that post I downplayed the “form” piece of the design equation, and today I was reminded that that part is actually pretty critical as well.

Why does it matter if something looks good? If my doo-dad or product or whatever works well, that should be enough, right?

You would think so, and in a perfect world it would be so.

But the fact is, it is not so! And we can use this to our advantage.

In 1995 Masaaki Kurosu and Kaori Kashimura published a paper entitled “Apparent Usability vs. Inherent Usability: Experimental Analysis on the Determinants of the Apparent Usability.” In it, they reported that, basically, when people find something to be more attractive or aesthetically pleasing, they consider it to be easier to use. The paper is considered to be the seminal work on this notion, and has been followed up by other experiments and papers confirming the idea.

Why does this matter?

Well, if you’ve created something for other users – be it a dashboard, or a prospect profile, or a single data visualization – and it’s kind of ugly, your users are more likely to perceive it to be less usable. They’ll be less inclined to engage with it. And if they disengage, the product is no longer serving the purpose you intended (if any purpose at all!)

If you take the time to “make it pretty” and improve the aesthetic appeal of whatever you’re creating, you increase the perception of its usefulness and impact and, as a result, its actual usefulness and impact.

MakeItPretty

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