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Aesthetics are in essence judgments of sentiment and taste. Oftentimes, it’s associated with the appearance of an artifact, but it can also incorporate all the senses (sound, touch, taste and smell). What cognitive science has also shown is it plays a very important role in human decision-making. Contrary to what some may think, it’s not just window dressing. We as humans form judgments, not only based on how something works, but also on how it looks and what it feels like to engage with it. It’s a mistake to label the aesthetics of a solution simply as eye candy because that is now treating usability and aesthetics as two separate considerations. Lost is the understanding of the role it plays on human decision-making; how we come to know, feel and ultimately respond.

At PowerDMS, we have incorporated a user-centric approach to the development of the new features we are releasing this summer. As Matt covered in his recent blog post, we conducted several usability sessions to vet out design decisions we made about how you use the application. These results helped shape the new functionality and design of the new homepage. As you may have seen in the sneak peek, we are also doing an overhaul of PowerDMS in terms of its appearance. It wasn’t simply a matter of switching out the theme, because as UX Designers we understand it’s not only about the artistic merit of the user interface elements, but also how our users respond to these elements.

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To give you an idea of our process, we conducted several A/B Tests with actual users to see what resonated visually with our customers. By testing two different versions of the interface, we were able to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the two different approaches, helping us refine the final design. We also tested to see how the new aesthetics assisted with usage by running task-based scenarios and observing the results. We carefully considered how these design choices influenced understanding and emotion, and how understanding and emotion helped influence behavior. We made the user interface elements clear and easy to understand, while leveraging proportional layouts to reflect good visual hierarchy—communicating information more effectively. These new design cues in our software helped encourage intended interactions that assisted with completing tasks. Tasks you do daily when getting work done.

We are proud of the end result and feel we have taken a good first step in developing a more intuitive system for our users to interact with. As always, we welcome your feedback as your input helps us continue to refine our product. If you are interested, we would love to have you join us for our weekly Usability Tests, regularly scheduled on Monday afternoons. Feel free to add yourself to the schedule by clicking here.