The Inference of Perceived Usability From Beauty

Hassenzahl, M. and Monk, A. (2010). The inference of perceived usability from beauty. Human-Computer Interaction, 25(3):235-260.

A review of 15 papers reporting 25 independent correlations of perceived beauty with perceived usability showed a remarkably high variability in the reported coefficients. This may be due to methodological inconsistencies. For example, products are often not selected systematically, and statistical tests are rarely performed to test the generality of findings across products. In addition, studies often restrict themselves to simply reporting correlations without further specification of underlying judgmental processes.The present study’s main objective is to re-examine the relation between beauty and usability, that is, the implication that “what is beautiful is usable.” To rectify previous methodological shortcomings, both products and participants were sampled in the same way and the data aggregated both by averaging over participants to assess the covariance across ratingsof products and by averaging over products to assess the covariance across participants. In addition, we adopted an inference perspective to qualify underlying processes to examine the possibility that, under the circumstances pertaining in most studies of this kind where participants have limited experience of using a website or product, the relationship between beauty and usability is mediated by goodness.A mediator analysis of the relationship between beauty, the overall evaluation (i.e., “goodness”) and pragmatic quality (as operationalization of usability) suggests that the relationship between beauty and usability has been overplayed as the correlation between pragmatic quality and beauty is wholly mediated by goodness. This pattern of relationships was consistent across four different data sets and different ways of data aggregation. Finally, suggestions are made regarding methodologies that could be used in future studies that build on these results.

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