When we mention Emotional Design, either cute mascots or funny error messages appear in the thought bubble of each member of the audience. Or at least mostly. Mainly that is the reason why it’s a great exploration to go beyond the beloved illustrations and not just study their justification but also see other ways we can ‘design with emotion’.
The mindset of designing with emotion
As ‘human computer interaction’ is not an alienated phenomena in the last few decades, the term has also lost its kind of relevance as it implies an impossible relationship.
Computers are not barriers any more but tools that represent us , our brand and our solutions. The webpages and applications mediate between people and we have all the knowledge and technology that makes it possible to uncover the human behind the product – whose aim is to solve a problem or suggest a better solution. Therefore the keyword I would mainly highlight from the official definitions of Emotional Design is the human touch :
[Emotion Design] “uses psychology and craftmanship to create an experience for users that makes them feel like there’s a person, not a machine, at the other end of the connection”. Aaron Walter
As soon as we understand the approach, we already get the mission of Emotional Design in product design that’s far beyond mascots and eye candy empty states. (Don’t get it wrong, we love them!) In this sense we can easily understand why Donald Norman states that the “emotional side of design may be more critical to a product’s success than its practical elements.”
The mission to add the human touch sounds elevated but its far more practical if we take a closer look. Simply because if we add some personality to our product it won’t be neutral! I guess it rings a bell: the worst reaction is no reaction • the opposite of love is indifference • dare to be devisive #wisemoments #almostcoelho
And not being neutral is essential because of (at least) 2 reasons:
Emotion is linked to our decision-making ability so don’t underestimate the importance of 1st impression and the role of aesthetically balanced interfaces.
An emotional reaction creates a memory imprint which holds us back from repeating negative experiences and reminds us to revisit the positive ones. This is not only good news from the perspective of brand awareness but also if we translate it into small interactions and UX matters that aim for example to teach our people on how to use a certain feature.
There are many other aspects that support the aforementioned but instead of providing neuroscientific explanations, let’s see the best practices to design with emotion.
Taking the time to create a design persona shows the yellow brick road to a product that people can relate to with a higher chance.
At this point it not only results in defining aspects that differentiate your product from the competitors or settle the visual lexicon, but also in identifying the tone of voice that consistently goes through all the copies, system messages and even the customer service.
My personal favourite in user experience design is it’s empathy based approach. At UX Studio we take the time and do the research and interviews to create user persona templates to map up personalities and the context in which users interact with our interfaces. It also helps us brainstorm about all the relevant forms we can get their attention with and create an emotional relation to our product.
The pyramid of user needs
As we humans have the priority of needs #exceptVanGogh, our product also deserves the same consideration in its own context.
“Emotional Design should never interfere with usability, functionality, or reliability.” A.W.
The pyramid of needs translated into product design is a great checklist and also can help us make the essential decisions when we look at the list of milestones on our product roadmap. According to the model, emotional design elements only belong to the pleasurable top icing: It’s good to have them but they are not necessary.
However it seems controversial because it excludes exactly those 2 aspects that I started my argument with: emotionally engaging elements help in decision making and work as reminders of our experiences with the product.
Thus it always depends on the type of product you are working on. For example in the case of a data sensitive banking app there is no need to add extra fun-features until the bottom layers (function, reliable, usable) are unchecked. In this case, security issues already bear the strong emotion of fear and if the product is functional, reliable and usable it results the strong emotion of relief and trust which gives a double check for the top pleasurable layer.
The ideal solution is a balanced ratio based on conscious decisions why and when something delightful, surprising or simply lovable can come helpful. When creating the customer journey you can brainstorm about the answers you can give to the painpoints of your users. Well-structured onboardings typically serve the purpose of solving the first-time doubts and also have the responsibility to start to connect with your customers, also emotionally. The long list of forms demand a lot of input so it is a nice gesture to say thanks even by a simple but kind pop-up. Decision points typically cause hard time (eg. at a checkout), unless we empathise with the situation and help the users go through the process.
MailChimp’s sending animation is a classic example of empathising with your customers’ pinpoint.
The feeling of relief is celebrated with a high five! This slight gesture was so successful that people started tweeting about the experience. WMO is the ultimate success of Emotional Design.
Emotional Design toolkit
“Emotional design isn’t just about copy, photos, or design style: it’s a different way to think about how you communicate” Aaron Walter
The former practises can help you identify the answers for the ‘where’ and ‘when’. Now let’s see the ‘hows’ in a quick list:
Tone of voice: Basically the tone of voice is the most simple, handy and universal tool to practice emotional design. Find your style by the help of creating a design persona and user persona to use the language that can create connection. It doesn’t necessary need to be superfunny. Just simply use the lingo of your customers because the point is to sound human and not like a machine. Typical touchpoints: Action Buttons, Push notifications, Loading Pages, Error messages etc.
Illustrations are simply aesthetically pleasing and can put a smile on everyone’s face that can sometimes compensate your handicaps for example in the case of error messages. They also help you stop the quick userflow for a second to pay attention to the actual message.