Monday, March 27, 2006

The role of aesthetics in design

Analyzing the debate about ugly websites ...

"I guess the reason that the recent "debate" over ugly websites has gotten so much attention is that it goes against common sense. In emotional design, Norman argues that people will go to great lengths to adapt to the requirements of products/services that meet their aesthetic preferences. This would indicate a kind of aesthetic primacy, especially for products/services whose markets are well established.

Now, in the peculiar case of these "ugly" websites, a different sort of mechanism is at work. In most cases, the winners of the web these days are sites that are able to draw and sustain vibrant communities and/or solicit interesting user-generated content. Whether it’s Craigslist, or MySpace or IMDB, by being the first in the space they were able to capture the community and the net result was that early success lead to later success.

This is the oft-cited effect of "community lock-in." It’s simple really - people go where the people are. And they will go whether the site is ugly or not. So the key is not that ugliness was a hallmark of their success, but rather that with significant community lock-in aesthetics matter less and less. Now if we were to fast forward into an alternate future where Ning tech (or some equivalent) makes the creation of social networks simple, and some of these networks are designed with better aesthetic considerations for their audience, then ugly will start to be a big negative. In this way, even large communities with significant lock-in can get overturned."   continued ...   (Via OK/Cancel)

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