Towards a Theory of User Judgment of Aesthetics and User Interface Quality

Venue: ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI)
Date: November 2008


Location: DOI = 10.1145/1460355.1460357
Pages: Volume 15 , Issue 4, Article No. 15

The authors of this paper introduce a new framework for user's design quality judgments based on the theory of Adaptive Decision Making. Adaptive Decision Making theory asserts that people's decision making is adaptive and contingent upon the task, context, and their background-experience, and that people make decisions by adapting their strategies to the task at hand. The authors support and refine their framework with three empirical studies. The first 2 asses judgment of quality attributes of websites. The third study assessed the influence of customization by experiments on mobile services applications.

The first two experiments concentrated on aesthetics and usability by comparing websites with the same content but radically different designs. The authors evaluate Task Performance, Usability, Aesthetics, Engagement, Service and Information Quality, Memory, and Overall Preferences. The results showed that designs with more animation, interactive metaphors, and graphics were rated to be more aesthetic and engaging, but exhibited worse usability on both objective and subjective measures. In the third experiment, the authors investigated the effect of customization on aesthetics and content. Since customization requires a pre-use phase where effort must be expended, the authors performed a cost benefit analysis. The authors evaluated customization choice, task performance, usability, look and feel, content-fit and customization, and overall performance.

The results showed that user preference was tied to differences in the users. The authors propose that user judgment follows three stages: assess application, select criteria, and evaluate experience. The authors found Halo effects where judgment of good quality on one attribute would positively influence judgment of another. The authors also showed that user judgment was susceptible to framing effects of the task and their background.