Does software appearance impact purchasing decisions?

Remember those old StarKist tuna commercials where Charlie the Tuna so desperately wants to be caught by StarKist and his strategy is to show them how cultured he is? Then he gets disappointed when StarKist sends him a note down on a hook that says, “Sorry, Charlie. StarKist doesn’t want tunas with good taste; we want tunas that taste good.”

Charlie did all he could to impress the company by exhibiting dazzling exterior traits, but on the inside, where it mattered most, he came up painfully short, again and again.

There are plenty of examples of the opposite, too, where something that looks ugly ends up being really great, like the frog prince, or John Merrick, the Elephant Man, or foods like these.

Bottom line is, it is almost impossible to assess a person or thing using outside impressions alone, yet as human beings, we can’t seem to stop, even if it leads to bad judgments, whether you’re dating or buying products. Like software, for example.

It’s an interesting topic that’s has fueled many stimulating discussions here in the halls of SSCS. We’re not talking about usability—we know that’s important. We’re taking a more superficial approach. Will an underpowered or otherwise lacking software package survive in a market if it looks streamlined and sleek enough? Conversely, will a powerful, full-featured software package have a tough time if it doesn’t look as attractive as the competition?

There’s no definitive answer, although, as you would expect, there are lots of opinions. SAP certainly thinks looks matter. But then look at how much Apple consumers ended up liking the “hideously ugly” iOS 7 operating system or the no-nonsense movement within the wiki community that praises content over form.

This debate is made more complex by the fact that different people have their own opinion regarding what “looks good”, but we’re interested in what you think. Does software appearance matter? Or is beauty only skin deep, with the function of the software trumping all? Please share your thoughts by typing a comment in response to this post. We appreciate it!