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We want those things we find pleasing to succeed. We’re more tolerant of problems with things that we find attractive.

So says Stephen P. Anderson in “In Defense of Eye Candy” at A List Apart. Do read the whole article.

I’d say that’s plenty true. It’s true of software interfaces, automobiles, and (if you’re so inclined, as I am) women.

Things we find attractive — that is, things which elicit a positive emotional affect — work better for us. They don’t just seem to work better, they actually do work better, not because of enhanced functionality on their part, but because our emotional response to their attractiveness makes us work better. Interaction, as it turns out, is a two-way street. A thing can work better because it is better on its own, or it can work better because it brings out the best in its users. Or — happy day! — both.

Do you want to make your users better at running your software? Make it in such a way that they are attracted to it, so they’ll want it to succeed, so they’ll excuse all its faults, so they’ll go out of their way to help it out, so they’ll put their best foot forward when dealing with it, so they’ll put in extra effort to learn what makes it tick and what makes it happy, so they’ll shell out money just to be with it, and gladly — you know, the same way a man acts around a pretty woman. Yeah, weird, I know. But there it is.

I’m not saying you can put lipstick on a pig, or that pretty is all that matters. Some people, I suppose, are attracted to empty-headed bimbos. But if your pretty software lies around all day sunning itself by the pool not holding up its end of the relationship — well, sooner or later the bloom will be off the rose. Nevertheless, if you have the choice between capable-but-dowdy and capable-and-smokin’ ... well, you go for the total package, right?

Of course you do. And so would your users.

Apr 21, 2009 | Eli Evans | permalink | comment

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