Aesthetic and Minimalist Design (Usability Heuristic #8)

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Summary: Aesthetically pleasing designs can provide memorable experiences that differentiate a brand. However, interfaces should only include necessary elements, with high informational value. Clarity will always win over visual flourish.

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Don Norman cited this famous William Morris quote at the beginning of his book Emotional Design 1 and it captures the essence of the 8th usability heuristic : aesthetic and minimalist design:

Interfaces should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in an interface competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.

Why Not Just “Minimalist” Design? Do Aesthetics Really Matter?

1. Visuals are essential to establishing good first impressions. As much as we would like otherwise,  people do “judge the book by its cover.” On average, users make an aesthetics-driven first impression about a site in the 50 milliseconds after landing on it , which is about 10x faster than the time it takes to read. So, unfortunately, teams cannot rely only on good, usable functionality and content for an experience to be perceived as usable.

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