Hassenzahl, M., & Monk, A. (2010). The inference of perceived usability from beauty. Human-Computer Interaction. doi:10.1080/073700242010500139
The purpose of the study was to re-examine the relationship between beauty and usability, since a review of papers showed high variation in results. The authors assumed it was due to inconsistent methodologies, so they wanted to take another look at the implication that “what is beautiful is usable”.
The authors created a questionnaire that had participants rate websites in terms of beauty and goodness. Four studies were constructed. (1) 60 participants received a random list of 10 E-commerce websites and were told to browse each home page briefly before rating them on their “first impressions”. (2) 10 female students rated all 60 websites that were chosen for the study, which took around two hours. (3) 57 students were given only 30 seconds to get an overall feel for 30 different websites before rating them. (4) 430 participants took a questionnaire about 21 different websites.
Six parallel analyses on the data showed a similar conclusion: that the pragmatic and hedonistic qualities of websites are related. The article concludes that their explicit model presents a correlation between the two, allowing for a better understanding of the relationship between beauty and usability.
I’ve previously looked into articles about accessibility and aesthetics, however they were not empirical. This article gives some real data about the relationship between usability and aesthetics that relates to my interest in interaction design. Possible concerns would be that websites in study 4 had to be translated from German to English. While content may not noticeably alter the look and feel of a site, I would indeed say that is would affect the usability of it.