The Personality Principle


If your interface has personality, good or bad aesthetics, quality, flow, satisfaction, or fulfilment are not important; I’d probably even go as far as saying that usability is not important either. Personality trumps all the rest because it is the only one that can give the user an emotionally valuable engagement with the software engineering artefact. There are no tests for this principle, if it has personality you’ll know it!

Source: The Personality Principle [#ux], Thinking Out Loud

This guy makes an interesting point. I don’t know if I could prove that aesthetics, quality and flow are unimportant, but personality (or lack of personality) does tend to cut through all of that stuff. When our site lacks personality, our users certainly have no qualms telling us about it. 😐

Think of someone you know. Think of surface stuff like how they dress, what they do, how they talk, what they drive, their mannerisms and body language. Now think of below-the-surface stuff like their emotionality or lack thereof, their reactivity or stability, their capacity for empathy, their likes and dislikes, their respect for boundaries, sense of humour and how they treat you as a person.

You can make two good arguments here:

1. That if someone’s below-the-surface stuff impresses you, you probably won’t mind so much how they dress or the annoying habits they have. Similarly, if they’ve upset you somehow, even a slip of the tongue or misplaced elbow will give you the shits. Therefore, you could say the below-the-surface stuff – personality – does trump the superficial aspects.

2. When getting to know someone, their superficial aspects are what you see first, and may effectively prime you to interpret their below-the-surface traits in a biased way. If you hate black because it reminds you of bad kids in school, then someone wearing black all the time might start you down the winding road of misjudgment (this is an extreme example; we’re all way smarter than that!). Here, you could say the surface stuff – aesthetics, quality, flow – are actually very important.

So, websites:

Do you think personality trumps all, stands on equal footing, or doesn’t matter?

Have you seen a site with loads of personality – how did you feel about it next to a site with no personality?

What do you reckon are the risks of designing and launching a site that’s functionally and aesthetically sound, but has the personality of mayonnaise?


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