​Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder

21st February 2014

Beauty is a subjective concept. How else can you explain Julia Roberts marrying Lyle Lovett? But what role does beauty play when it comes to designing websites? Yes - visual interfaces must comply with a brand’s visual guidelines and yes - it must follow ‘design principles’ but what about actual soulful, aesthetically appealing, pupil-dilating beauty?

Successful websites engage the viewer. Well, what is engagement on a human level? Surely this refers to pure human responses – what we feel, think and like or dislike. In our process of building a website, functionality and the look and feel go hand in hand. Our ethos is based around websites that perform brilliantly and look great. If we bear in mind that website effectiveness depends on human interaction then the distinction between look and function becomes blurred. Basically, if we feel that it looks gorgeous, it gives us a better website experience.

What are aesthetics?

Aesthetics are not to be confused with prosthetics, which are false limbs, nor with ascetics, which are hermits. The term aesthetics covers how our senses contribute to how we feel about something and how we learn about the world. On a website people learn by sight what is a tab, what is a hyperlink and what is a button that clicks through to another page. The design of the element (eg. shading or blue underline etc) tells us that it has a function that we can interact with. Our brain interprets visual clues, colours and shortcuts to help us navigate without reading detailed instructions on the page. Furthermore, our brain favours visuals that are more appealing – or beautiful. If it finds a pleasing image that is a button, we are more likely to use it than a plain or ugly one.

People are visual creatures, it’s how most of us interpret most of the world. We attach all kinds of values, qualities and emotions to imagery. All the little symbols and visuals on a website – from the font choice to the colours and the use of straight lines or curves or photos or cartoons – all these visual choices form a personality. And this personality determines our impression of a website. Over time this impression develops into our engagement.

It’s important that we engage with a website because it’s the shop window of a brand. Some brands position themselves as highly personal, family-oriented, homely or luxurious – and creating a warm, trusting feeling towards that brand personality is important. It follows that beauty is a primary goal for that type of website design. We recently launched a website for Nede Construction who deliver high spec construction and interiors for luxury properties. What they create is stunningly beautiful and our website design had to reflect that.

At Studio Republic we believe firmly in bringing out the beauty in any design. In a world which is increasingly driven by automation and operating systems, it’s nice to create a little bit of loveliness.