Emotional Design: The Digital Experience
By Gwenever Pacifico / September 20, 20213 min read
Today, it’s no longer enough to design a website or app that works. Digital products also need to provide users with a positive and memorable experience in order to stand out from the crowd and deliver results to a company.
Investing in emotional design and user experience (UX) as part of a brand’s digital strategy not only improves the quality of digital interactions for consumers, but can also increase conversions. A site or app that fosters negative emotions can turn customers and clients away. It doesn’t matter how efficient a website is if the target audience doesn’t want to interact with it.
The grandfather of emotional design, Don Norman, explains that “everything has a personality: everything sends an emotional signal. Even where this was not the intention of the designer, the people who view the website infer personalities and experience emotions.”
When designing a digital product that elicits positive emotions, all the different aspects of it from color choice and typography to image selection and asset placement need to add up to a harmonious whole. Creating the right emotional cues can influence a user’s decisions and affect whether they want to keep using the product.
Andrew Chen, a general partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, studied data points from over 125 million mobile phones and found that the average app loses 77% of its Daily Active Users (DAU) in the three days after it’s installed. Within 30 days, 90% of DAUs are lost, and by the 90-day mark, less than 5% of users continue using an app.
With the average app losing a majority of its userbase in a matter of days, it’s vital for companies to design digital products that are not only functional, but evoke positive emotions that make them enjoyable to use.
UX Design and the Bottom Line
Creating the right emotional experiences is key to unlocking the full potential of digital design. Effective UX makes users feel good or excited about being on a website or app. By designing digital products with the goal of making customers look forward to using them, companies can increase sales and foster a better brand experience.
Aarron Walter, former VP of Design Education at InVision and current Director of Product for US COVID Response, says, “What if an interface could help you complete a critical task and put a smile on your face? Well, that would be powerful indeed! That would be an experience you’d recommend to a friend.”
Look at successful interfaces like the ones used by Twitter and Facebook. Their designs are uncluttered and intuitive, and users form an emotional bond with the product that makes them sign in to the services multiple times a day. That’s the power of emotional design.
This isn’t something new. In the 90s, two Japanese researchers conducted a study on how aesthetics affected “perceived usability” by comparing different ATM control layouts. All the ATMs were identical in function, the only difference being that some had more attractive interfaces. The researchers found that the ones possessing these attractive interfaces were perceived as being easier to use, with subjects remarking that those ATMs actually “worked better.” The study suggests a visually pleasing experience can lead to such a high degree of customer satisfaction that users will forgive minor frustrations when encountering problems with the product.
This customer satisfaction leads to greater ROI for a company. The more satisfied a user is, the more likely they’ll continue using a website or app, and the more money they’ll spend on the brand.
The User-Centered Approach
By focusing on the user experience as the guiding force behind building new digital products and improving existing ones, designers can translate user feelings into product parameters.
A 2020 study on website design for Turkish universities utilized the Kansei Engineering approach to identify design elements that were emotionally appealing to students ranging in age from 18 to 37. Kansei Engineering is the Japanese design methodology that links consumers’ emotional responses to the properties of a product or service.
The students were asked to use 22 Kansei words to evaluate 9 sample websites of different Turkish universities. The results showed that an emotionally attractive university website needs to include a top menu, small header, and a logo that’s on the left side. These findings can help universities add elements to their webpages that attract more students by meeting user demands for better, emotionally-designed sites.
Humor is another way to strike an emotional bond with users. Designing loading screens or error pages that illicit a laugh rather than a groan creates a positive experience out of a negative one. Google Chrome does this effectively with its dinosaur game. The Tyrannosaurus rex jumping over cacti keeps users engaged when they lose internet connection.
A funny and helpful 404 page is another way to alleviate negative emotions when the unexpected happens. No one likes seeing a “Page Not Found” message instead of their intended webpage. But if a designer utilizes links and witty graphics on that page to help customers get back on track, it can leave those users with a positive feeling.
Taco Bell’s self-aware sense of humor shines in its 404 page which features a dancing taco tripping and spilling all its fillings. It also includes useful information like links to Taco Bell’s homepage, menu, and locations so customers can find what they need. By designing with emotion in mind, the fast-food giant is able to turn an embarrassing website error into a great opportunity to show off its brand’s personality.
Websites and apps that keep the user experience at the forefront can foster positive emotions, decrease negative ones, and create memorable brand experiences for their customers.
Codazen Solutions: Form and Function
Digital products that are emotionally appealing and user-friendly show customers that you care about their experience. By incorporating emotional design from the very beginning, businesses have a higher chance of not only getting users, but keeping them. This in turn leads to higher revenue streams and a better brand reputation. At Codazen, we build digital products with that in mind.
According to Josh Grieve, one of our UX designers:
Getting to know your audience can uncover their needs and state of mind when interacting with your product. Are they relaxed, anxious, focused, or frustrated? Emotions impact our experience. When a product anticipates that, it creates a sense of empathy anyone can appreciate and remember.
Codazen’s designers and software engineers work closely with companies toward a personalized and creative digital strategy. We focus on the user and understand that how they feel can drastically impact the success of a site or app.
Contact us to learn how we can help you leverage the power of emotional design.