Aesthetics, functionality and user experience are fundamental pillars of design. When any of these three elements is not present or is deficient, the product or service suffers as a whole.
In fact, these three elements have always existed, but until recently they haven’t been considered as essential aspects of design, dependent on each other. Until then, aesthetics, functionality and user experience have been used in isolation or uncoordinated.
Aesthetics is the quality by which a product is considered beautiful. The aim of aesthetics in design is to inspire, but also make the information or use of a product more understandable.
Although it may seem the most trivial of the three pillars, aesthetics is important for two reasons. First, because the positive effect of aesthetics on the perceived ease of use is one of the best known design principles.
Secondly, aesthetics helps to make the information understandable. This is the case, for example, of infographics, instructions or information visualization in general. Concerning this second function, aesthetics also plays an important role in the design of products and spaces. An aesthetic design can be crucial to make its use more simple and intuitive.
While services, strictly understood, cannot be aesthetic, in most cases they rely on physical elements, such as websites, documents or interactive spaces that need to be considered.
The purpose of functionality is to make sure that a product or service is useful, fulfilling the function to which it was intended.
Of the three pillars, functionality is the best known and probably the most obvious one. Nevertheless, we continue to be amazed by the high number of products and services that don’t serve for what they were designed. This leads us to the conclusion that functionality isn’t an inherent feature of design, but, like the other two pillars, requires an analysis.
The fact that something isn’t functional may be due to the combination of a multitude of variables, but the most important one is the absence of a final testing phase in which the designer analyzes how key users interact with the product or service.
There are many definitions of user experience, but I prefer to describe it as the art of converting the need to use a product or service into a pleasure.
This is the latest pillar. Although it is often linked with digital environments, user experience is applicable to any situation of interaction between the user (customer) and a product or service.
The aim of this third pillar is to go beyond the previous two, adding a third dimension to design. It is not enough for a product or service to work properly, be considered as beautiful and easily understood. Now, design must ensure the user enjoyment.
Obviously, this pillar requires empathic ability and a deep understanding of human behavior. The designer, in addition to being a specialist in a particular field, needs to be a sociologist and an artist. Possibly, this is the reason why design firms with multidisciplinary teams are better prepared to meet the challenges ahead.