Don’t Design For Happy Users

Stock photography played us a really bad joke. It has lead us to believe that all our users are either happily browsing the web stretched on their sofa or that it only takes for the whole family to pile up in front of a laptop for the joy to come.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

We’ve even translated this fake-smile-mask attitude to our beloved user personas. Although they are supposed to represent different types of users, so that we can better understand their unique motivations and goals, we end up with a bunch of resumes all crowned with smiley faces. And it gets really hard to empathise with people who seem rather untroubled to solve any problems for them. Sure they’d love to read all my text, sure they’d be intrigued by the challenge to navigate through our site, because they all seem so divine.

Well guess what, users are actually using you software application to solve a need or a problem. They have one. At least one. The task may vary from online shopping through news reading to randomly browsing just to get their head cleaned out from other ideas. One great example is a tourist vacation website, which is filled with beautiful imagery and immersive stories. One could easily imagine their users blissfully buying their dreamy vacation package, except that these users are usually under great pressure. During the process of buying, they are tortured by various dilemmas: Is this the best deal they could get? Is this company reliable? Is this vacation worth all their savings? Is their wife going to like it?

And chances are your users are also multitasking at this moment. The process may be interrupted by a new E-mail from work, a call from their friends or some notification pops-up on their phone. Due to nowadays endless stream of information, our attention spans has decreased to around 5 seconds. Which means that if you haven’t convinced the user to take action by now, they would hardly give you the benefit of doubt.

Can’t we make our users happy?

Let’s have a look at another example. Research shows that the happiest moment in a purchase is right after you decided you are buying this and right before you pay the price. Before that you are confused, afterwards comes the guilt for spending money. So, in theory, the longer the queue to the cash desk, the happier you are. What happens online? The shortest distance on the webpage is between the product and the “Buy it” button. Then the annoyance of endless entering personal and card details begins.

I am not saying we should start hiding the “Buy it” button, but maybe, just maybe a short “Congratulations!” or “Great choice!” message could cheer you up right after you’ve made a decision to buy. Much, much helpful than a polite ”Thank you (for paying us money)” on behalf of the business side at the very end of the process.

After all, it’s our job as UX designers to improve the level of satisfaction from the user’s interaction with your application. We incorporate psychological cues, social research data and our knowledge to craft value for the user to use your product. But losing cue of your user’s feelings means losing feeling of your users. Don’t design for happy users.

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