You can find countless resources on this, and generally the answer is UX is more important. That usually enough but theres more to it. But what if you looked at it from another angle, what if a good user experience is beautiful, because really beauty promotes purpose.
Purpose is what UX is based on, what you want the user to feel, do and navigate. We need to restructure how with think about this.
Beauty without purpose does not exist.
Try to think of something that you think is beautiful, and break it down to find its purpose.
But you may ask your self: what about art — whats its purpose? To share a moment, explore the details of life, generate feelings, and spread “What can be”. Art that is what you could call “ugly”, does not do this, you can’t experience the detail and skill or the craftsmanship, or the emotion imprinted by the painter, it is a drawing of something without purpose and it is obvious to those who see it.
And its subjectively objective, everyone will see beauty differently, I may love a piece of art and you may not. And thats okay, because like the saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. UX is the practical application of that.
Just an artist shares beauty and purpose the goal of a UX designer is to show the user beauty and purpose.
The curves on a car, are means for aerodynamics and to guide the eye, the patterns on clothes — draw attention and create interest, colours — create feelings and reactions. Its universal, all beauty has purpose and all purpose is beautiful. So stop this internal struggle between the two, when you do this you create a battle that doesn’t need to exist.
Design invokes feelings and function invokes logic.
Both serve a purpose, design creates a brand that the user feels and wants to stick around with and function promotes utility. A user wants the latter and needs the other.
This means that you shouldn’t separate the two, but once you begin to think of them as one in the same your experience will change. When you start to understand the hidden beauty in function, that how something works is not different than how something looks or feels.
Design for the sake of beauty is not beautiful. Design for the sake of UX is not a good experience. Design for the sake of purpose is both.