What’s next after usability? Delight!

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Emotional design and delight are hot topics in user experience. As overall product usability is more consistent than it has been in the past, we look to provide a greater benefit from design. So with usability as the baseline, emotional design is the standard for which to strive.

Don Norman, a leader in the UX Emotional Design movement, categorizes emotional design into three levels: visceral, behavioral and reflection. Visceral refers to the initial reaction based purely on appearance. Behavioral refers to the look and feel while using the product, and reflection refers to the way the person interprets their experience after use.

Moving forward in UX, we should consider how to create products that inspire and delight users. How can we do this?

  1. Anticipate the needs of the user
  2. Make the user feel respected and special
  3. Create a desire within the user to engage with the product
  4. Personalize the user’s experience.

Google anticipates a person’s needs with the search options provided as I start to type in my topic of interest. In addition, if the person has previously searched for something, even on another computer, Google will remember and ensure that the same topic is at the top of the suggestions. This is an example of how google anticipates the user’s needs and personalizes their experience.

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However, this can backfire for a very private person. Someone may not like that websites using Google ads will plaster their ad space with whatever the user had been previously searching on Google. This may feel a bit too violating, so while this area of personalization in user experience is growing, there are still some aspects that need to be worked out in addressing the user’s perception of safety and respectfulness.

In addition, cuteness, smiles, and humor add to a positive emotional experience. Cuteness, such as the wide eyed baby or animal face, makes people feel all warm and fuzzy, which may or may not be appropriate for your product.

An adaptation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was developed by Peter Hancock, which demonstrates an emotional hierarchy within product design.

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Hancock, P. A., Pepe, A. A., & Murphy, L. L. (2005). Hedonomics: The Power of Positive and. Ergonomics in Design.

The bottom of the pyramid illustrates the most basic needs: safety, functionality, and usability. As referenced in the beginning, we can start to accept usability as the baseline (generally), so in order to be successful, products should aim higher: pleasurability and individuation.

Due to the expanding interest in emotional design, hedonomics will be developed and studied over the next few years. This changes our approach from user-centered to person-centered, which takes the collective user base and focuses on a personalized experience for each individual.

Therefore, as designers attempt to bring out delight in their products, the field needs accurate ways to measure emotion. We could ask users to classify their own emotions, such as through Microsoft Reaction Cards or heuristics. However, with this technique, you are trusting people to correctly interpret their own emotions and that can be difficult for people who are not very self-aware or intuitive.

There are universal ways in which people express certain emotions, such as happiness in smiles, expressions of fear, disgust, or surprise. Additionally, people exhibit universal body language such as leaning forward when engaged. To observe, measure, and analyze this information, we need to make sure that researchers are able to focus on this in addition to other testing needs. Therefore, it is helpful to have multiple observers in a usability test.

While emotional design garners more attention, we need to make sure that usability is not impacted by the need to make a product more emotionally impactful. The product still needs to be usable; emotional design should merely supplement this.

To see Don Norman discuss this concept, watch this video.

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