What does it mean that something is aesthetic in design, and specifically in web design?
It doesn't respond to opinions or tastes and it's not art.
Aesthetics is a basic design principle that defines the pleasant or pleasing qualities of a design.
It includes factors such as balance, color, and movement.
Aesthetics: A philosophical discipline that studies the conditions of beauty in art and nature.
As indicated by the Nielsen Norman Group in this articleIn a recent study, "users are strongly influenced by the aesthetics of any interface, even when trying to evaluate the underlying functionality of the system".
To understand this better, we will look at two closely related ideas about the "look" of a design.
- The halo effect
- Form follows function
1. The halo effect
The halo effect refers to a cognitive bias that is part of a large group of distortions that are circumscribed in the so-called "limited rationality criterion".
We are biased towards aesthetic forms. We all love to look at beautiful things and are attracted to beauty. In a group of people, we will look first at those we find attractive. And according to the bias of attractiveness, we will consider them more intelligent, competent and attribute other positive characteristics to them before the rest of the group. In advertising campaigns, this is nothing new. But how does it apply to web design?
When we visit a website, the decision to stay exploring or to leave is made in seconds. Much of that decision depends on the aesthetic appeal of the page design. Well designed pages are more likely to retain users than those loaded with content.
This can affect the following web metrics:
1. higher volume of traffic to the web
2. best bounce rate
3. increased time on the site
In addition, they build an emotional bond with designs that move or attract them, which is known as emotional design.
But beauty isn't everything. We must maintain a balance between aesthetics and user experience, and the second idea related to the appearance of a design: Form follows function
2. Form follows function
The aesthetic usability effect is defined as the user's bias to perceive an attractive website or product as more intuitive or usable, rather than a less aesthetically pleasing alternative. This bias occurs regardless of whether the website or the more appealing product is actually easier to use.
Design is a plan to organize elements in the best way to achieve a specific goal.
A good design provides the user with the functionalities he needs to carry out his task. A well-known extreme example is the Google homepage. It has a search field in the centre of the page. Everything else, secondary functions, is located in a corner.
In each page, we must decide which are the essential elements from a functional point of view. For example, the function of adding a product to the shopping cart. As the Nielsen Norman Group reminds us, "a nice design can make users more forgiving of minor usability issues, but not of major ones. As the first law of e-commerce says, if the user can't find the product, he can't buy the product. Even attractive sites will have no income if they suffer from poor searchability."
The design will allow us to highlight these elements, without disregarding aesthetic appeal.