Delighting Users — Adding magic to everyday interactions

Thin Martian
4 min readOct 13, 2016

Delighting users is a concept that is often talked and blogged about in UX / UI circles. Whilst ‘user delight’ is a slippery concept it’s widely accepted that special interactions are required to add an extra level of pleasure to user experience and that small, well considered details can make a big difference. However, if creating something that is simple to use is the aim how do you successfully add extra elements without unnecessarily overcomplicating things?

Here are a few things we consider when developing delightful experiences.

Download Transition by Nick Buturishvili

Don’t even think about delighting the user until you have the basics covered.

Getting the fundamentals of your product in place is the priority of any interface or interaction design before trying to add something to wow your users.

Arran Walter from Mailchimp describes a hierarchy of User Needs similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Walter details that the foundation of any digital service or product must be functional first, followed by ‘reliability’ and ‘usability’. ‘Pleasurable’ is at the top of the pyramid and this is where we find the requirement to delight.

Only when you have solved the previous 3 stages can you start to consider adding the delighting elements to your products. A product could respond and surprise a user with animations and interactions, but if it fails to deliver on the basic promise of functionality and usability all the delights in the world can’t disguise a fundamentally poor product.

Delighting isn’t a constant

Delighting is all about timing. Taking a ‘shock and awe’ approach to adding delightful elements to your interface design is not the best way to impress your users.

Parently Rules animation by Nikolay Tarasov

Just because you can add an animation or transition does not mean you should. If every element of your interface is in motion or transit you devalue any impact these design decisions could have had. Exception is key to delivering a delightful experience, not bombarding users with a full arsenal of effects and transitions. Use them to add emphasis, importance and feedback to your users actions, or reward them for their interactions with a welcome surprise.

Mobile interactions by Chris Biron

Go deeper than the glossy surface

Aim for a deeper level of delightful experience.

Surface level gloss is just that, and more so it can impede the flow of the experience. A deeper understanding of what the user wants to achieve, getting out of their way and letting them to get into a ‘flow’ is a great method of delivering delight.

Flow is what keeps users coming back. If it feels good to use your product then the user’s reward is in the interaction with the functionality. If something is a delight to use then users will use your product at a higher frequency than products with a poorer quality flow.

Liquid Pull down by Ramotion

Reducing anxiety is just a delightful as wowing the user

Entering payment or delivery details are classic moments of anxiety and pain for many users. Identifying and reducing the friction of these experiences can be moments to delight users and exceed their expectations.

Produce ‘User Stories’ to help you zero in on possible solutions to user problems and pain points rather than developing additional features first. Try to understand the user’s world and the experiences that inform their preferred solution and what will help them realise their goals through the interface.

Make it personal and give it meaning

Personalisation is currently a big theme in UX design, this is because it is easier than ever to deliver from a technical point of view. There is now a level of expectation from the user towards this personal touch in their digital experiences.

However, true personalisation is going deeper than just adding the user’s first name or recommending products based on their previous habits. It is providing context and meaning to their interactions. Reference and adapt to their location, the time of day, even device they are using. This type of tailored and personalised interactions make for delightful experiences.

These are just a few of the points we consider when working to design and develop delightful user experiences. There is no one size fits all solution to the question of delighting users, but by working to understand who you are designing for and fitting into their lives as simply as possible are the best ways to provide a touch of magic to everyday digital experiences.

GIF for Restaurant Menu by Sergey Valiukh