Another researcher (Tractinsky) decided to duplicate the study in Israel. His theory was that Japanese “culture is known for its aesthetic tradition” and that in Israel the functionality would probably be more evenly rated. He was surprised to find that the Israelis gave the nice-looking machine even higher usability ratings than the Japanese had.
But why do we interpret pretty things as being more functional? Maleck-Whiteley defers to Don Norman’s “Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things” for explanation. Norman believes beautiful things positively alter our mental state, increasing feelings of happiness and decreasing feelings of stress and anguish. When we’re not stressed, things seem simpler.
So what does that mean for your website? Even if the navigation is simple enough for the E*TRADE baby’s milk-a-holic girlfriend to follow, your site could be turning off visitors if there are no images, dull colors, or fonts that aren’t web-friendly. And if they don’t get past the home page, if they don’t buy anything, and if they don’t come back, your great search engine ranking won’t amount to much.
Take an objective look at your website. Better still, ask your customers what they think of it. Their feedback can help you design and build a site that’s functional and attractive.