Usability VS aesthetics

Usability and App Aesthetics- Where the Super Premium brands will fail you!

We now live in a tech era where we want to have everything connected around us. Right from investments to car cleaning are now happening via the cloud i.e. Online. So, creating an app that will find a place in the customer’s mobile will be of paramount importance. This one particular schema will ensure your firm will survive. Be it the sharks (Incumbents) or the tadpoles (Startups), the thumb rule remains the same- Create a flawless and predictive experience for your users.

What has this got to do anything with super premium brands. For eg, if you are trying to create a premium experience for users with your product, you can never expect to win by benchmarking against the leading premium brands of the world. The premium brands are trying to win an association with its customers leveraging on the intangible factors and they are constrained by a lot of externalities. Ever heard that Mercedes has churned out millions of dollars to position Maybach, Yes, they do because their positioning strategy calls for it. However significant amount of effort and money will go in creating a brand image than to address the burning needs of the consumers. So, winning in the prod-tech space requires a different recipe.

Let’s look at two main factors that will play a crucial role in creating a winning product- Usability and Aesthetics. I come from a management background where there is a prominent thought If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Improve It.

“’you can’t manage what you can’t measure”

– Peter Drucker

In this article, I will only focus on the tangible variables of building an app that can be measured.

Aesthetics, a very subjective and highly complicated variable. Research shows that 70% of Americans decide whether or not they will consume a particular service within 5 minutes of hitting an app or website. And it’s not only about the colors, the aesthetics should have the power to communicate actively. Do an active and passive way to find the metrics that will work for you. Choose a theme for your app and then look at the number of players in the same space with the same color theme. If you find two to three exact matches, you are on the right track. Nothing wrong in trying out fresh colors but be wary of the fact that colors have sector reservations as well. Red in “Banking” is considered very aggressive as against “Blue”. Similarly, Blue in logistics is perceived as “too upmarket as against “Red”. Hence, choose a palette of colours and distribute these colours in the app.

Look at your theme as an active communication window. Always. I repeat always looks for contents in your app that are nether in sync with the message nor adding value or discrete in nature. Avoid such outliers in the app.


Next, the Usability part of the app is the critical. Looking at the macro objective, the app flow and screens should be predictive of what the user is looking for in the app. Creating the finest of experience in the app will help companies clearly differentiate the app from competition. While few metrics like number of clicks, fewer navigations and lesser text and more animations will help us initially, they do fail in the long run. So, where do the companies differentiate themselves from intense competitions from a usability perspective.
The usability dimension can be attributed to the digital representation of these three functions for a seamless user experience

“Screen as a communication Window”

Look at every pixel on the screen as a window for communication with the user. Consistency goes a long way in helping the user understand the app usage. The app process flow should be designed with such ease that the user can navigate the screens and call for actions in his mind before even the app process traverse.

“Call for Action”

The call for action in the app is feature that will win the hearts of the critical mass of your app user population. For a product listing or an e-commerce app, the technique lies in how innovatively pictorial representations are used within standard layouts to make the app presentation better for its users. Needless to say, ensure there are no glitches in the loading of your app and this one particular instance kills the overall experience. Hence anticipate the mobile traffic and ensure your architecture and your stack are conducive to a gliding experience for your users.

“Simple and Swift”

As the phrase goes, the simpler the app is to use, the better conversion rate in terms of virality and references. But simple in this parlance would refer to meeting the basic expectation from a customer.
Refer Uber app, Let’s look at the problem solved for the customer through the app

Availability of cabs in Nearby
with time bound
Helps users plan the travel and mode
Realtime and pictorial Helps the user confirm that the cab is reaching him and also taking the right and shortest possible route
on Arrival
Realtime Helps customer save time


The problem solved here by Uber is not getting the cab to you through technology, but addressing the micro painpoints like

  • Fear of not showing up / cancellation
  • Is the booking complete
  • Is my Cab on time
  • Will my driver make it or cancel the ride?
  • Optimal Fee and Vehicle Condition assurance
  • Driver behavior

So, it’s all about removing the fear on the unstated needs of the customer through an interactive interface in case you are in service. And remember an Elephant cannot bite you, but an Ant Can.So be extra cautious about designing small things in a user-friendly way when building a product /service.
The big brand won’t help you tide through this wave as for all big brands its more about the brand than what the consumer might need at the experiential level. Go through the RollsRoyce portal and it’s all about brand vintage and nothing about customer-brand connect. And that’s exactly why if you are building a brand from scratch, always look at small details to win.

Venkatesan Anandaraj | Product manager turned Entrepreneur | Winner of 2016 Innovation Award from Mr. Anand Mahindra’s Office for designing digital products.