Aesthetics of interaction

Posted on September 5, 2007 | Tagged as: , | 0 comments

What makes a interactive system successful? Is it a beautiful, usable interface? Is it an unbelievable set of features? Or does it simply satisfy the users needs? Of course it’s a little bit of all, but what makes a product really successful is the context of experience. It is offering the user a context to enjoy working and / or playing with all his senses. This is, what makes it more than a single product.

Current efforts on improving usability mainly focus on making things easier. But usability is more than just ease of use. Usability, more than anything else, is about experience. Interactive systems should be challenging, seductive, playful, surprising, memorable or even moody – or simply just resulting in enjoyment. Just think about computer games which accomplish almost all of these attributes while the ease of use is mostly horrid and unlearnable.


Aesthetics could be defined as arrangement of elements to make an interface become beautiful in its appereance. Aesthetics of interaction on the other hand is the sens of beauty that arises during the interplay between the user and the interactive system in the context of use.

Bringing together this ‘context of experience’ and the ‘aesthetics of interaction’ means that the designer and developers should not strive for making a function as easy to access as possible. The goal must be in making the unlocking of the functionality contribute to the overall experience.

Crucial aspects

When designing, there are some aspects that should be considered to achieve an aesthetical interaction. They are very general, as they do not tell exactly what to do though they provide the basics for decisions.

Function and performance Proper function of the system and a stable and good performance form the foundation of a good interaction. Products that do not work lead to frustration.

User’s needs, desires and skills A contextual design approach (or even only some thoughts about the user) help to derming the value of interaction. The perceptual-motor, cognitive and emotional aspects are concerned.

Context of use Adding to the user’s needs, the context of use has an important influence on the experience. For interactive systems, the context can often be defined very well. Even in a mobile environment. the key is more general view with just some markable details.

Richness to all senses Interaction does not onlyrefer to visual aspects, but the wealth and subtlety of auditory, olfactory, flavoury, tactile and kinaesthetic. All together create an engaging experience. The richness bears on feed-forward as well as feedback.

Story and ritual Each interactive system tells an individual story about the relationship between himself and the user. Intimacy evolves when the product stimulates the user to create his story and rituals during usage. Exploration and interaction strongly enforce this aspect.

Inspired by some great publications of Caroline Hummels.

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