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Dan Rubin's SuperfluousBanter

Design, random musings, and the Web. Since 1977

Archive for January, 2004

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Design and Usability: Part 2

Wednesday, January 7th, 2004

Andrei Herasimchuk left a
very sensible comment
on my previous entry, Design
and Usability: Part 1
. He stated that "The aesthetic quality of something
is intrinsically locked with how functional and usable it is". After thinking
about this statement for a few days I could not think of a single argument to
refute it. However, after a while, I started to deconstruct his sentence and
stumbled over the specific word aesthetics. Bluntly, looking the
word up in a dictionary yields the following definition (among slight variations):

Now, I’ve always learned that:
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", which is a paraphrase of a statement
by Plato. To me the beauty or good taste of an object (or subject) is not intrinsically
locked with how functional and usable it is.

You wish you owned one!For
example, an automobile is mainly a functional object – transportation from point
A (initial position) to point B (final destination). Nonetheless most of us
value the aesthetics of a car highly, for some it might even be their main buying
argument. But does the outer shell of a car (thus its beauty or good taste)
define how functional or usable it is? I think not. We might experience it as
being more functional or usable. But abstracting from beauty a car’s functionality
or usability is defined by how it is designed and not so much by its aesthetic
value. Aesthetics are subjective.

Returning visitors of SuperfluousBanter might have noticed that Andrei’s blog
Design
by Fire
has been added to the Regular Visits section in the sidebar. His
blog is an excellent destination to read about topics related to interface design
and usability, among others. Good content, good design, good code. Run and bookmark
that site!

Topics which
were initially planned for Part 2 will now move to Part 3. In my next post I will
try to discern some of the factors and elements related to usability and functionality.
But in the mean time: what do you think about the relationship between aesthetics,
design, functionality and usability? Discuss.

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