One of the crucial conditions of positive user experience is desirability. People aren’t only made of logic and action, they are also full of feelings, intuition, emotions, and memories. That’s what designers have to keep in mind aiming at user-friendly products.
The emotional side of design may be more critical to a product’s success than its practical elements.
Emotional design strives to create products that elicit appropriate emotions, in order to create a positive experience for the user. To do so, designers consider the connections that can form between users and the objects they use, and the emotions that can arise from them. The emotions a product elicits can strongly influence users’ perceptions of it.
Emotions play a central role in the human ability to understand and learn about the world. Positive experiences kindle our curiosity, and negative ones protect us from repeating mistakes. Humans form emotional connections with objects on three levels: the visceral, behavioral, and reflective levels. A designer should address the human cognitive ability at each level—to elicit appropriate emotions so as to provide a positive experience. A positive experience may include positive emotions (pleasure, trust,...) or negative ones (fear, anxiety,...), depending on the context (for example, a horror-themed computer game).
Emotional experiences make a profound imprint on our long term memory. We generate emotion and record memories in the limbic system, a collection of glands and structures in the brain’s foldy gray matter.
Visceral emotional design appeals to our first reactions when we encounter a product. It mainly deals with aesthetics and the perceived quality from mere look and feel, and the engagement of the senses. Here, we examine what inner or “gut” reactions tell us about an item. Behavioral emotional design refers to the usability of the product, our assessment of how well it performs the desired functions, and how easily we can learn how to use it. By this stage, we will have formed a more justified opinion of the item. Finally, reflective emotional design is concerned with our ability to project the product’s impact on our lives after we have used it—e.g., how it makes us feel when not holding it, or what values we find ourselves attaching to the product in retrospect. Here is where designers will want to maximize the users’ desire to own that item.
Genuine emotional connections are the lifeblood of any truly memorable experience. Next time you’re designing a sign up form, make the user really feel a sense of achievement for having filled in all 21 fields. If they’re posting a photo, make their contribution feel valued.
Good products make us feel something, and great UX should too.