Aesthetics, Part 1

I was reading an article titled “In Defense of Eye Candy” on A List Apart that argues the importance of understanding the impact of aesthetics on a project’s success, and I wanted to piggy back on that article to make a few additional points. In this article, the author argues that aesthetics and usability concerns be given equal weight when designing a web site because form and function should be one. As a designer, I agree with this concept. As a human, I completely agree with this.

This idea holds true almost universally in the natural, experiential, world. Consider a tree and a rebreather. They both scrub carbon dioxide and provide oxygen rich environments. However, a tree affects far more people than a rebreather. A tree also provides shade, prevents erosion, aids in the moisture cycle, provides shelter for animals, etc. A tree is also aesthetically appealing. It is full of color and life. It’s branches and leaves sway and rustle in the wind. In other words, a tree provides holistic benefits, and a tree is something with which people can make an emotional connection.

I’m not saying rebreathers don’t have a purpose. Trees don’t really work that well underwater or in outer space. However, most people don’t live underwater or in space. So, maybe a rebreather is to a tree as a mobile website is to a full website. The rebreather accomplishes the basic function in a unique environment.

So, they have similar base functionality, but the form of the tree is the aspect that enables an emotional connection. I don’t know of any poetry or artwork focusing on rebreathers. In marketing, isn’t making that emotional connection with customers and clients one of the ultimate goals? If you can make an emotional connection, you are far more likely to enjoy a long relationship with them.

Why then do businesses so frequently dismiss the role of aesthetics in their marketing efforts? Why are so many marketers, web designers and web developers content to provide business with recycled, second-rate materials. More importantly, why do businesses accept this low level of quality; even demand it?

The answers to these questions and more will be addressed over the next few posts. So, stay tuned.

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