@Helen I have not thought about this and come up with an answer—to be honest, I’m usually the one being reminded by my team about these accessability issues! Ticks and crosses, icons, etc. can reinforce the message being communicated with color choices. Shapes, as well—I’m thinking about the “STOP” signs at the end of each section of a standardized SAT test (these reference driving associations). Also, things like type choice or even all caps can convey a lot of meaning. Of course, cultural context would have to be considered in these discussions. I hadn’t though about white labeled versions of Google and trust—good comment!
@Mads You are exactly right! Context is a critical (overarching) consideration for all decisions—aesthetic or otherwise. Have you seen “my thoughts”:http://twurl.cc/tqm on the subject? There is ongoing debate about a “universal aesthetic” vs “subjective aesthetics,” (I won’t go there!) but your point is also about how context governs our response to a certain aesthetic. I’m so glad you mentioned this! The “trashy looking pump encountered on a dusty desert drive” would be part of a good narrative experience. My context for the gas station is a fairly well-off suburb where this kind of inattention sends a terrible message! To be clear, my goal for writing this is simply to legitimize the consideration of aesthetics for a set of reasons not usually addressed—I’d hope these considerations would be filtered through an awareness of context and the overall experience! As far as predictability goes, that’s a tricky one, as I’m sure you know. In some contexts, we don’t want things to change; however, as humans we also thrive on novelty, surprise, serendipity, etc. Though as you point out, designing for these things can be quite tricky.
@A.J. Yes, thank you for clarifying the title for me! Also, you wrote that “_aesthetic design best-practices should be integrated into the wireframing stage_”—Yes! Yes! Yes! As far as the A/B testing goes, I wish more designers participated in these practices—seeing metrics from a _well-constructed_ test can be quite eye opening, and also the shortest route from “I think I know what works” or “this is what I like” to “here is what works.” This “ALA article”:http://www.alistapart.com/articles/designcancripple/ is a great one of the subject.
@Chris You wrote: “_…it’s not a matter of one side winning over the other, it’s a matter of balancing the two. The goal is that the sum of the form and the function is greater than each separately._” I’m glad you add this. I’ll clarify even more—sometimes it’s a _balance_, sometimes it’s a _tradeoff_, other times it’s a _prioritization_. The key, as you indicate, is to be clear about the objective/end goals that a project is supposed to accomplish, and then make decisions accordingly. My goal in writing this article was to present a “rational” argument legitimizing the functional value of aesthetics, especially where there is heavy interaction (software applications for example). As I allude to in the opening sentence, I’ve seen way too many conversations defending or dismissing aesthetics for the _wrong_ reasons. In writing this, I hope to deepen that conversation, and provide a framework by which to understand the different viewpoints on the value of design. If there is to be arm wrestling over design choices, I hope that folks (on either side) are arm wrestling over the relevant merits of aesthetics. Since entering the field of UX design more than a decade ago, I witnessed the constant tension between usability engineers, development teams, designers (“at all levels of maturity”:http://www.bplusd.org/2005/10/19/a-rough-design-maturity-model/ ), business folks, marketing groups… Each has something quite valuable to add to the equation. But, it’s frustrating when we don’t value each group’s contributions or understand how to orchestrate these different interests to work together to create value for business and value for customers.
You also write: “_there’s a myriad of interpersonal and psychological factors that impact a project…_“ My experiences in both design and strategy roles has been leading me more and more into the realms of psychology, neuroscience, social sciences and other “human” focused disciplines. My most “recent presentation on Seductive Interactions”:http://www.poetpainter.com/thoughts/article/the-art-and-science-of-seductive-interactions is an example of where this focus is leading me.
@Michael Thanks! Added to my reading list.