Thursday, March 08, 2007

Usability, Aesthetics, Emotions and the User Experience

A scholarly paper on measuring aesthetics, emotions, and user experience ...

"To date, approaches to the evaluation of interactive systems have mainly focused on tasks and goals, their efficient achievement, and the cognitive information processing involved. In the past few years, various ideas have been discussed that go beyond the notion of efficiency and that aim to better understand how people experience technology. In this regard, two important concepts have been explored: non-instrumental qualities and emotions (Hassenzahl & Tractinsky, 2006).

Non-instrumental qualities can be described as quality aspects that address user needs that go beyond tasks, goals and their efficient achievement. Different approaches to non-instrumental qualities can be found in the literature. Jordan (2000) argued for a hierarchical organization of user needs and claimed that along with the functionality and usability of the product, different aspects of pleasure are important to enhance the user's interaction with it. Further analyses studied selected non-instrumental quality aspects of interactive systems in detail, such as hedonic quality (Hassenzahl, 2004) and visual aesthetics (Lavie & Tractinsky, 2004).

Recently, the term emotional design (Norman, 2004) has received significant attention. Desmet & Hekkert (2004) went a step further by presenting an explicit model of emotions according to product perceptions. Zhang & Li (2005) studied the concept of affective quality as the ability of interactive systems to cause changes in the user's affective state. In this way non-instrumental quality aspects and the role of emotions were studied individually for a more in-depth understanding. However, to assess interactive systems regarding the user experience as a whole these various aspects have to be integrated to fully understand and compare users' experiences of interaction with different systems.

Although various studies were reported that contribute to a better understanding of the role of non-instrumental qualities or emotional user reactions as part of the user experience, only a few approaches exist that integrate instrumental and non-instrumental qualities as well as emotional user reactions into one framework. Rafaeli & Vilnai-Yavetz (2004) studied the interrelations between instrumental and non-instrumental quality aspects as well as emotions in a non-interactive domain. Tractinsky & Zmiri (2005) transferred this approach to the area of websites. My PhD project aims to carry on these first steps and aims to lay a more elaborate theoretical basis, use a broader methodological approach and provide further empirical results on this research problem. For pursuing this approach, three building blocks are addressed:

• a model specifying the major components of user experience and their possible interrelations,
• a set of methods to measure these components, and
• a number of empirical studies applying these methods to test the model by analyzing which factors influence the relevant aspects of the user experience."    (Continued via HOT Topics)    [Usability Resources]

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