Hartmann, J., Sutcliffe, A. and De Angeli, A. (2008) Towards a theory of user judgment of aesthetics and user interface quality. ACM Transactions on Computer‐Human Interaction, Vol. 15, No. 4, Article 15, pp. 15:1-15:30.
Also this article contributes to the discussions on the interplay between aesthetics and perceived usability. Hartmann et al. used two versions of two web sites in their studies. A metaphor-based design was more aesthetic and also more engaging than its more conservative menu-based counterpart, but it was also more complicated to learn and use. These usability problems reflected to worse objective and perceived usability. Still, the participants’ overall preference fell more on the metaphor-based design mostly due its engaging use experience. Consequently, Hartmann et al. conclude: “Usability is important, but good aesthetic design can overcome some usability problems”.
For me, who is interested in usability testing and its settings, this article brought out a concern of the context of use, and especially the anticipated context of use. The effect of aesthetics and objective usability on the participants’ recommendations varied according to the context and group of users for whom the recommendation was supposed to be done. Therefore, instead of merely asking test users if they wanted to use or even buy the system for themselves, they could also be asked to consider the same for various contexts and users.