How the love-it effect makes your website easy to use

Contrary to what many people believe, Apple computers are not easier to use then other computers. They are complicated pieces of machinery that require many hours of learning to operate correctly and even after years of use, people still make lots of mistakes. So, why are they generally considered easier to use?

The "easy to use" myth is partly fostered by advertising. This is what Apple keeps repeating and, as you know, if something is repeated enough it becomes true.
But most of the "ease of use" perception comes from a well documented design principle: the love-it effect.

What is the love-it effect?

The love-it effect is a phenomenon in which people fall in love at first sight with an object (or a person).
The key words here are "first sight". When we see something for the first time we don't know anything about it. We don't know if it's good or bad for us, we don't know if it will perform as promised. We don't know if it will solve our problems. All we know is that we like it or not.

So, why do we like something if we haven't had a chance to experience it yet? We like it for its looks. We like it because it has aesthetic qualities that appeal to us. Good looks play a crucial role in this first impression.

But why is the first impression so important?

The first impression is so important because it influences the second, third and fourth impressions. And the ones that come after them.
The first impression influences the way we will relate to the object in the future. How?

When we first see something that we like, a switch flips in our brain and everything else about this thing is seen under a positive light.
The opposite is also true: if the first impression is bad, everything else about this thing is perceived to be bad.
So, the reason why people think Apple computers are easy to use is not because they are really easy to use but because they are beautiful and the beauty itself makes them easy to use.

If you have ever bought a computer from Apple you know that the packaging the computer comes in is itself beautiful. Everything about the opening of the box is staged and neatly designed to give an impression of high quality.
Why would they go to such lengths for a box that will be thrown away after it's opened?
You guessed right, the reason is: the love-it effect, the first impression. People like the packaging, therefore they are going to associate positive feelings to the product that's inside. And when they hold the actual product and see how beautiful it is, they can't help but forgive its flaws.

But, why is this love-it effect so crucial for our website?

The love it effect works with everything: with physical objects, with persons and with websites as well.
When we first look at a website, and think it's ugly, we tend to leave and never come back.
But if the website is beautifully designed, we perceive it as easy to use and tend to forgive quirks and mistakes in the user interface.

The love-it effect has been well documented in many studies.

For example, one study done by Nick Cawthon and Andrew Vande Moere at the University of Sydney, Australia, a few years ago found that speed of completion, task abandonment and errors changed depending on website aesthetics.
If a site was beautifully designed, it became faster in the eye of the users. They completed their tasks more completely and made less mistakes.
The study was done under controlled conditions, so the only thing that changed between two sets of sites was the aesthetic factor.

But beautiful websites are expensive, you may say.

Often startups and small businesses become concerned when it comes to spending money on quality design. They don't want to hire a good designer because good design is expensive.
But look at it this way. Let's say you own a small business with a low budget and are going to meet a possible client. How are you going to dress? You are not going to put on ripped jeans and a dirty T-shirt, right? You know this will definitely not get you the contract.
If you don't have anything decent to wear you will probably go to the store and at least spend some money on new clothes for the appointment.

The same is true for your website. You don't have to spend a lot of money but you can't dress it in ripped jeans either.
The website is such an important piece of your business and needs your main attention.
You may save money by buying used furnitures but trying to save money by not paying attention to the design quality of your website will only negatively affect your bottom line.

So, what have we learned in this article?

The love-it effect is so important because it influences all subsequent perceptions of your website.
If users like your website at first sight, because it's aesthetically pleasing, they will also think it's easier to use and therefore they will use it more.
Not only that. They will transfer those positive feelings to your whole business as well and will be willing to forgive minor errors on your part.
Even if you are just starting out in business and don't have a large budget, consider saving on something else but don't save money on website design because your bottom line will be directly affected.

But you don't have to believe me. Just look at what Apple did over the years. Their computers are slower, less powerful and more expensive then comparable PCs. The one quality that stands out, in contrast, is beauty. And this long term emphasys on beauty is paying off. Apple has recently officially surpassed Microsoft in terms of enterprise value.

But what is considered beautiful in a website? Read how the Mona Lisa premise can make your website more attractive. (link to next article)