Aesthetics overrides usability?

Professor Suk co-authored an article entitled as “Influence of an Aesthetically Appealing Product on User’s Interest” in International Journal of Affective Engineering, which was previously called International Journal of Kansei Engineering published by Japanese Society for Kansei Engineering. This study was selected as one of the best papers at the International Symposium on Affective Engineering 2008, and was invited for a journal publication. This study compares the impact of aesthetic appeal with usability competence of a product.


Purpose of present paper is to investigate whether aesthetically appealing high involvement products are associated with greater interest (tactual experience, flow and recall of product information) than products are not aesthetically appealing. Another purpose is to observe difference of influence to user’s interest (tactual experience, flow and recall of product information)  between high involvement product (MP3 player) and low involvement product (Media player). For the experiment, fourteen emotional words were extracted and categorized into 8 aesthetic and 6 usability words.  In a preliminary experiment, the subjects freely used three MP3 player and selected emotional words by a 7-point likert scale to distinguish aesthetic and usability and software product value. In the main experiment, it was hypothesized that users have more interest, flow, and recall more information in case of the aesthetically appealing but bad usability product than which has good usability but ugly. Therefore, we measured how much time subjects spent to use the product and asked them to make an assumption regarding the time spent by the group that has the same usability value. We then examined the time they spent and see the gap between the actual and estimated time. We also calculated the amount of menu information recalled via a questionnaire. And also we hypothesized that there are different result of user’s interest, flow and recalled information between High Involvement Product (MP3 player) and low involvement product (Media player). In a previous study we observed user interest of low involvement product (Media Player). So at this time, we observed the gap between two groups of product. Results are discussed with significant influence of user interest in case that product is aesthetically appealing. But we didn’t find any influence of recalled memory of aesthetically appealing product. And results showed that high involvement type of product (MP3 player) makes more interest to user in flow only.

Full text in International Journal of Affective Engineering