User Interface Aesthetics Matter

on Oct 9, 2007

a UI button

A lot of people say that they don’t really care about what the software they use looks like, as long as it does its job. They are wrong—they do care—even if they don’t know about it. The cosmetic polish of a user interface (UI) should never be underestimated, and yet, hundreds of products on the market today look like the developers didn’t bother putting any effort into making things look nice. Why should they spend time “prettying” up something which in the end is only going to get used for its function?—or so they might think. What is important to understand is that the “prettying” up of the interface will actually enhance the function, through user experience. Let me give you a real world example from a completely different industry.

Let’s look at cars. In the car industry we have a whole host of different tiers of cars. Some are luxury, some are functional and some are just basic. If you look at an old Lada, and then take a look at a modern Audi, which one would appeal more to you? Is it just the function you are looking for, or is there more of an aesthetic appeal as well? Surely you would enjoy all the interior polish of a car like Audi or Mercedes over the bare bones of a Lada. Sitting in a Mercedes would just be more comfortable and more pleasing. Everything would just be nicer—and it will look nicer, outside and inside. Driving a luxury car isn’t only great because it goes fast, it’s great because the car looks sleek and beautiful. Just take a look at this picture:

lada and audi

The Audi looks great—it’s futuristic, its modern, its sleek—it just looks fantastic. The Lada on the other hand…just looks bad, and not in a good way. When a company like Audi or Mercedes designs a new car, they are making a work of art—the car isn’t art, it’s a vehicle that gets you from A to B, the brand however, is. When we use beautiful things, we enjoy using them more, it gives us a pleasure of using something which not only works well, but is intricately designed. Taking the time to make things look good can really enhance user experience, and in the end, if you can deliver great user experience to your customers, they will love your product and your brand. Surely that is something positive and something which should not be ignored. Let’s see this applied to the software industry. I’ll use the good old example of Apple versus Microsoft:

windows xp desktop

Windows XP - Classic UI mode

os 10 desktop

OS X Tiger

Which one looks better? Not very difficult to tell, and yet in this day and age, with Windows Vista and all released, we still keep seeing software on the Windows (and even on the Mac) platforms that looks really bad. I’m not just talking about cluttered interfaces, I’m talking about interfaces without any aesthetic appeal. When you make software, you should think about making the UI visually appealing and satisfying to use. Think about color, think about light and contrast, think about typography—craft all of the elements with care and passion, after all, they will be representing your brand. Using software that has been carefully and passionately designed is like driving a luxury car. Great looking interfaces can make your brand shine and make your products a joy to use. There is no reason to ignore this and waste an opportunity to become more successful.


  1. Comment by Will — Oct 12, 2007 @ 9:24 am

    i think that that screenshot of xp is a bit harsh, but i see your point. People seem to assume that vista is better than XP, It’s shinier yes, but is it really better?

  2. Comment by Agon — Nov 1, 2007 @ 6:27 pm

    Interesting perspective, and yes, that screenshot of XP in classic mode was a little harsh :)

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