Turn users into fans with delighters

As a UX designer, my passion is to design great customer experiences. But often you’re required to focus on delivering functionality. Build it, release it, build more functionality, release, repeat. To me, this is the big trap of the regularly misunderstood MVP (Minimal Viable Product) in Agile Development.

To concentrate on only delivering functionality is a missed opportunity. Of course, the end result will probably still do the job, but it may be bland and fail to stand out from the crowd.

The missing ingredient here is emotion. It can be that positive feeling when you’ve accomplished a difficult task; or a smile on your face when you see something funny. Think Minimum Loveable Product instead of Minimum Viable Product.

I know it’s hard to prove the actual business value of most delights and yes, they will take your team more time to complete. Nonetheless, I do believe implementing delighters will result in a stronger brand perception and higher loyalty for your product. There are plenty of proven industry cases that show an increased brand appreciation / loyalty due to delights.

To illustrate this point, I’d like to zoom in on two features of the mobile app we (the design team at Essense and the development team at Q42) built for PostNL (the national Dutch mail and parcel courier).

Bring on that smile!

The main feature of the PostNL app allows you to track and trace parcels. Typically people use the app once or twice a month, so the frequency of use is steady but fairly low. For that reason, the window of opportunity for building that relationship with your user will be limited. If you want to make a lasting impression, you need to seize those precious moments.

To seize our moment, we decided to transform an otherwise boring ‘pull to refresh’ event into a fun animation. Most people who visit the app would want to refresh their list first before doing something else. As it takes a few seconds to get the data from the server and update the list it gave us the perfect opportunity.

Video of van loader, as part of the track & trace list

Now, every time the user refreshes the list a little van pops up, driving through a typical Dutch landscape. Not only is the loader a delight to watch, it also emphasises the PostNL brand by showing a miniature version of their delivery van doing the rounds. And of course, we designed a couple of special variants for the holidays ;-)

Deliver delight through convenience

To me, delights are not only about sprinkling a bit of fun throughout the app. They are also about exceeding the users’ expectations; features that clearly help the user achieve their goals. As ultimately, features are merely a means to an end.

The second and final example shows how an otherwise time-consuming task can be transformed into a super simple flow that takes less than a minute to complete.

You probably recognize the situation where you needed a stamp, but the Post Office was either closed, too far away or had a queue straight out of hell.

Wouldn’t you be tremendously relieved if you could just skip those steps? Well, with our app you actually can. Ok, you still have to pay for it, but other than that you can have your digital stamp ready in just under a minute.

How does this digital stamp work?

In short, you select a price category, you pay for it, and the app gives you a 9-digit code, presented in a 3x3 matrix. All you have to do is write it on the top-right corner of the envelope and your mail is ready to go!

Key steps of the digital stamp creation flow

The digital stamp is a powerful example of how to transform an otherwise irksome task into a quick and pleasant experience.

So, did we create a stronger brand perception and higher loyalty? Hard to measure, as I stated in the beginning of this article. For now, the best indicator for the success of both features is probably the number of positive reviews we received after launch. People even told us they refreshed the list just to see the animation of the van one more time.

Not only is it amazing to see how adding a little fun can go a long way in delighting our users and improving brand awareness, also the passion and motivation that the team exhibited during development and launch is something (development) teams should really aspire to.