Emotionally Intelligent Design: Why You Need It in Your Mobile App

The Startup
Published in
6 min readSep 13, 2018


Nearly all of us have a smartphone. We use various applications every day — document management, driving assistance, dictionaries, workout tracking, brain puzzles, local weather, barcode scanners, you name it. There are as many apps in App Store and Google Play as stars in the sky.

Now think of the applications that are now in your smartphone. Can you name at least 5 reasons why you have chosen the app that you use now over the other from the very same category and with the similar features? You narrowed down the list of your device memory “nominees” to two. Both fitted your needs, both had great reviews and still for some reason you opted for the only one app.

Now we are getting to it. Most of us may not realize how much impact emotions have on our decision-making. Charles Darwin argued in his 1872 work that different emotions help humanity to survive. It would seem that technology and biology are radically different from each other. However, it is safe to say that taking into account users’ emotions when creating an app will help you to survive in the fierce competition in the market.

Say mission impossible or technology can’t rise an emotional reaction? Have you ever seen videos of testing Boston Dynamics robots when scientists punch and kick them?

We all emphasize these tech creatures in some way. Smart technologies are making big steps towards human emotions recognition.

Web and mobile UX design is moving towards positive emotions

Insignificant and at first glance imperceptible details of visual design without which the app will continue its work, often cause a greater emotional response of users than the concept of an app as a whole. For example, this fun feature expresses the emotions in a chat by shaking a smartphone.

Such details give the product a unique identity and help to establish communication with users on a personal level. This technique is called emotional user experience design.

Let’s take a ‘404 not found’ page. It is a good place to trigger emotions of your site visitors. Most users reaching the 404 error page will try to leave it as soon as possible. If small sites can monitor the correctness of their links, then on larger sites, tracking broken links leading to deleted or moved files or pages becomes more difficult. Well-thought-out UX design of the 404 page will not only offer visitors links to relevant material, it will spark their interest and encourage to explore your offerings.

Image source: pixar.com / theuselesswebindex.com

Designing for emotions also works great for educational apps. For example, we used emotional elements of UX design while developing an e-learning system STAV Online since emotions create motivation, allow to attract the attention of students and make it easier to memorize educational material.

Emotional UX design — the path to interactive relationships

Expression of emotions is natural. All of us learned to recognize emotions since childhood. When we are chatting online, we use emoticons, smileys, emojis to let people understand how we feel. And now technologies are learning to identify users emotions. With every year we see more and more emotional intelligence is being integrated into the mobile experience.

Emotional intelligence is not just animation effects that appear when the user performs certain actions. Today, emotional intelligence in mobile is a way to make a user experience more delightful and interesting and therefore to make your app more popular.

The giants of the market — Android and Apple are trying to simplify interaction with their services by carrying out machine learning research. So far, there are 4 key elements of emotionally intelligent design:

  • Personalization,
  • Conversational interface and voice recognition,
  • Face detection and expression analysis,
  • Analysis of physiological parameters.


Personalization in apps creates a connection with the user. When you come to a hairstylist and say that you like colder water when washing your hair it is called customization. When you come next time to the hairstylist and he/she remembers your preference it is called personalization. Personalized push and in-app notifications make users feel special.

For example, the largest on-demand music streaming service Spotify uses the technology that determines the rhythm of running and, based on the results, offers joggers a suitable playlist. And the right music for running is very uplifting. All joggers who don’t know about this app are already interested in it, right?

Conversational interface

Not so long ago, people interacted with computers by means of the text only. And today, with the development of artificial intelligence, the progress of natural language understanding and processing algorithms gave us conversational interface and chatbots in order to make our communication with technology more natural.

One of the undisputed leaders of emotional voice technologies is the company Beyond Verbal. They created a mobile app that analyzes raw ten-seconds records and extracts data which indicates emotions, mood, speech habits, stress, and also the user’s health.

The Internet giants developed the army of devices and services on basis of conversational AI like Google Assistant, Siri by Apple and Cortana by Microsoft. For example, a hands-free device controlled by Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant can wake you up at the right time, turn on your favorite music, find and read news and even order food takeout.

There is no need anymore to type your requests. You can say it and the app with language processing will find everything for you. The graphical interface still prevails in mobile app development. However, with the burgeoning of the conversational interface, we are about to talk to the apps like to an old friend who understands your mood.

Face detection and expression analysis

Laptop or smartphone recognizes you without requiring to enter the password. Cars, social media networks, stores — all welcome you and call by the name from the very sight of you. This is how face detection works.

The distance between eyes, nose width, the length of the chin — you catch all these details unconsciously when you look at another person. A computer does it by combining all these metrics and getting the mathematical formula of a human face.

There are many ways to produce a better user experience with face detection in mobile apps. For example, iPhone X has Animoji feature, which creates your own animated characters that use your voice and copy your facial expression.


Analysis of physiological parameters

Modern smartphones have lots of sensors which allow detecting blood pressure, pulse, skin temperature. And what does this has to do with emotions, you ask?

All of our thoughts and emotions instantly affect the muscle tone and muscle work. Experiencing this or that emotion, we strain or, on the contrary, relax definite groups of muscles. For example, anger can cause an increase in the muscle tone of the hands, if behind this anger is the desire to strike the offender. Guilt often causes a desire to hide or disappear and then the head can inadvertently begin to drown into the shoulders.

For example, Sentio Solutions company designed a bracelet that tracks, recognizes and collects information about human emotions by monitoring physiological parameters. Then the mobile application offers recommendations that should form positive, including emotionally, habits for the user.

Emotional UX design and development. Magic? Technology!

There are many forthcoming forks in the emotionally intelligent design industry. There are even more research and technological challenges that need to be solved. But one thing is clear, using emotional intelligence brings endless opportunities into the world of professional UX design.

If you like the emotional user experience design concept and want to incorporate it into your app, we are hear to help! Whatever your idea is, our team of mobile app developers can make it true.

Originally published at anadea.info.

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