I can't say that enough: Context Matters. And that advice extends also to the tools that we are using.

Can we listen to music in a cheap mp3 player? Sure. But how's it that an iPod seems better at it? It's not just some extra feature or the audio quality or some social way of saying "hey, I'm trendy and cool". It's also that it conveys an ease of use because it's nice, and that my friends, is context at work.

An excerpt from the awesome book "Pragmatic thinking and learning: Refactor your wetware"

Several studies have conclusively shown that attractive user interfaces are easier to use than unattractive (or to use the scientific term, ugly) interfaces.

Researchers in Japan did a study of a bank’s ATM interfaces; subjects found the aesthetically pleasing button layouts much easier to use than the ugly ones, even though the functionality and workflow was the same.

Thinking that maybe there was a cultural bias at work, researchers repeated the experiment in Israel. The results were even stronger, even in a completely different culture. But how could this be? Aesthetic considerations are merely an emotional response. That couldn’t possibly affect cognitive processing. Could it?

Yes, it can. In fact, additional studies have shown exactly that: positive emotions are essential to learning and creative thinking. Being “happy” broadens your thought processes and brings more of the brain’s hardware online.

So, next time an extra tool is needed, shop around.. find the best one, not just one that allows you to do the job, but one that also allows creativity and ease of use. Your brain will thank you for it.
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