Visual Appeal vs Usability

First Impressions Matter: The Importance of Great Visual Design:

A study examined the effects of visual appeal and usability on user performance and satisfaction with a website.

Users completed different tasks on websites which varied in visual appeal (high and low) and usability (high and low). Results show that first impressions are most influenced by the visual appeal of the site. Users gave high usability and interest ratings to sites with high appeal and low usability and interest ratings to sites with low appeal. User perceptions of a low appeal website were not significantly influenced by the site’s usability even after a successful experience with the site.


Key takeaway: Invest in design – it’s what matters the most for pulling users in. Funny enough, great visual design will lead to higher usability ratings even. And actual usability will matter much less if the overall visual appeal is low.

There are a lot of folks in our industry that fly the usability flag high. The arguments they make are sound, but this study pours cold water on some of them. Perhaps a good first impression, via good design, sets the table for better performance - even if usability is lacking. At the end of the day, the real question remains: