As an interaction designer I’m certain at some point you’ve had someone come to you and say “Design something unique, something that has never been done before, something that will amaze people when they use it, something that they will remember”. When you hear this, what do you end up doing?
As designers, we always follow the basic principles of interface design, our primary goal is always to make clean and easy to understand interfaces. At the same time, we need to ensure that we stay in sync with the latest UI patterns being used. Consistency, visual hierarchy, typography, intuitiveness, animations, transitions etc. are some of the things that we strive for in an interface. Crafting a clean, usable and easy to understand product with a great user experience has become the defacto goal for every designer. Everyone knows this, everyone talks about it, and everyone aims to achieve these things in an interface.
Talking about it, doesn’t make it easy. In fact, I’m not saying that these goals are easy to achieve at all. I still fight and work my ass off every single day, just to try and get few of these right. But have you ever wondered what more you need to do to make your product appealing, pleasurable and memorable?
It took me a fair amount of time to realise that to design a great product, I have to think far beyond terms like research, wireframes, layout, color schemes, brand, etc.
I’m writing this article hoping, new interface and interaction designers bursting on to the stage will find some of my learnings useful and gain these valuable lessons earlier in their careers. So what more you need to do?
As human beings, we all constantly seek emotional connections with others. We tend to remember things that triggered strong emotions within us. Logically, the next step for designers is to start considering designing for emotions.
Now I don’t know the tried and tested way of doing this (or even if there is one) but there are various studies and articles out there, explaining different theories and approaches on creating emotional designs. At it’s core, most of them boil down to making the user experience fun and memorable by designing a personality around your product.
Think of it like this: you visit a 5-Star restaurant for dinner. As you reach, you feel important and welcomed. Your car parking is taken care of, you are greeted at the entrance and politely escorted to your table. The waiter speaks to you in an inviting manner and guides you through the menu with suggestions and helpful tips. The manner in which your food is presented as well as the ambience around you adds to the good feeling you’re getting. Everything will be well organised with no nonsense clutter or dirt. The menu will be well designed (as designers, we always notice a restaurant’s menu design closely, don’t we?) and countless other little details will be just right, leading to you feeling that it is a world class restaurant.
Without a doubt, the food will definitely be a key reason for you looking forward to visiting the restaurant again, but all these details is what that makes your experience truly pleasurable and memorable.
Now think along the same lines for your product. To make your product pleasurable and memorable you have to take care of the user all the time, from the point of on-boarding to the point he finishes using it. To accomplish this, you’ll have to do lot more than just presenting the user with a clean and usable interface.
An experience for users that makes them feel like there’s a person, not a machine, at the other end of the connection — Aarron Walter
To achieve this goal, we must reflect on how we interact with one another in real life.
Below are a few things (in no particular order) that I believe will help to develop a personality around your product and target user emotions. (Not comprehensive in any way. There is and always will be more that can be done.)
Understand the prospective users and what they are looking for
You must have heard this one time and again, there is a lot written on this subject and still most designers forget / ignore / consider it as unimportant. The reason behind it being that how much ever you try to identify prospective users, you cannot accurately identify all of them. You will have to make a set of assumptions. In reality, every individual is different so you shouldn’t target individuals. What works for you, won’t work for your friend or vice-versa. Instead of identifying individuals, you should divide users into different categories and then cater to their needs and emotions as groups.
For example, if you are designing a product to help an individual to find the best suitable home loan. The prospective users can be divided into profiles such as salaried employees, self employed, people in the age group of 20–40, middle class people, housewives, investors, etc.
By doing this, it becomes far easier to study different user profiles closely. In turn, this can help you take informed decisions and target relevant emotions rather than making assumptions which are incorrect most of the time.
Make it extremely easy at the start. The on-boarding process should be engaging and interesting
On-boarding is a very critical flow for any product. It’s imperative to make a sensible and strong first impression. How many times on a website or app have you clicked on the ‘Get Started’ button and were immediately presented with a long form or asked to create an account or presented with lots of information to consume at once? I bet most of the time you ended up closing the tab / deleting the app (unless of course you were on a dating portal!).
The first impression is critical and has a great impact. Now the process of on-boarding a new user will depend on what your product is, and what it’s meant to do. Think and decide accordingly, what information do you want to give to the user in order to educate them about your product, before unleashing the final product to the user.
Make this process fun. No one likes to fill forms or reading random chunks of text. Use a playful tone with your copy, add some visual elements if possible to complement the process. Perhaps even add a subtle animation or a mascot that can help make the experience more interesting. But most importantly don’t over do it, do things that are necessary. Be smart. Be opportunistic. Make it interesting. Make it engaging. Make it fun.
When used effectively, humour can engage users and increase product stickiness. Humour can be achieved by having a funny visual or some contextual witty copy. However, be really careful, humour doesn’t translate across cultures and in some cases can be unintentionally offensive. Be subtle and don’t interfere with the interface. A bit of humour will really lighten up your product’s personality but you have to be smart to know when it is, or isn’t, appropriate. Don’t force it. For example, a user who is coming to your website to complain about your product or service won’t be amused if he is greeted with a witty message. You need to understand the context of why someone is coming to your website and what he/she will be looking for at that time.
Voice and Tone
The voice or brand language of your product plays a huge role in representing the face of your product. Keep your voice as human centric as possible. Don’t get too formal. Feel free to be funny & cool but be smart, the primary goal should be to inform the user and help them take informed decision. Be Helpful, Playful, Motivating, Direct and Actionable.
MailChimp have a brilliantly consolidated guideline for their product voice and tone
Recognise situations, take responsibility and motivate the user
Everyone needs some encouragement. A little bit of encouragement in interface can do wonders. There will be places where the users will be uncertain of what action to take, recognise those situations and present them with recommendations. Don’t ever leave your users hanging. Its the interface responsibility to guide the users all the time and help them in their path.
Motivate the users to perform the actions that you have design for them. This doesn’t mean to spam them with pop ups, reminder emails and push notifications. Know when to push. For eg: In a fitness app if the user has not done any activity since a week send a push notification with some words of encouragement to get them back. When they complete few activities, reward them with something. Like a badge. Gamify the process. Everyone likes that.
We are humans and no matter how clear & easy to use your design is, people will make mistakes. How well you handle those mistakes will determine the quality of your product. Don’t just highlight things in red and fill the screen with error messages. Give them the option to undo. Guide them properly by giving them relevant explanation on what went wrong and what is expected from them. Present them with multiple actions that they can perform to come out of that situation. By doing so you are giving your users the freedom to play / experiment with your product and learn from it, eventually that will lead to them making less mistakes.
Make your product attractive
Attractive product makes the user a little forgiving and makes them more tolerant. I understand that the design should be minimal, simple, easy to use, efficient and all that, but adding a layer of attractiveness in the UI will take the experience a step further and make the use of the product compelling. Delight The User.
Eventually the core idea should be to develop a personality for your product which revolves around Human Centric Design. Building a personality around your product is a long term goal and comprises of the things that I mentioned in this post (and many more). But once you do do it and successfully inject it into your product, your product will do wonders.
Having said all that. Achieving everything at one go is just un-real. Iteration is the way to go. Achieving a perfect balance takes skill and time, and each solution will depend on a case by case basis. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution
The journey to make a truly amazing product will be vacillating; you have to be persistent.
Thanks for reading
I’m Adil Siddiqui, a Digital Product Designer. Also, a hand lettering enthusiast.