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Today we almost know everything that doesn’t work on a product or what kind of patterns work better for this or that situation. If we look at almost every landing page structure, email marketing campaigns or mobile apps’ UIs, maybe we all feel that everyone is following the same safe rules and speaking the same language.

Besides that, designers are always trying to understand the needs of users but somehow they rarely focus on the emotions that design evokes.

In addition to this, objective metrics are being the ‘key’ to measure a product success.

So now that everyone is on the same page we just might already be facing the next big challenge: Design needs to be pleasurable.

We are striving to build the perfect product following the right steps but somehow missing one of the most important aspects – We need our products to be delightful to use.

Like we can see on this pyramid of needs on Emotional Design, by Aaron Walter.


Alan Cooper

So, it’s not enough to make things work as smooth as possible, we need to make the user want to repeat the experience over and over again.

And here is when it comes Emotional Design.
Emotional Design means considering the emotions and leveraging the responses as a part of the design process. The main idea is to produce a particular experience for the users of the product by its design. That means to make the experience unique and special for the user.

Regarding this approach, we can now distinguish between what is having core product features from the next step of having a convenient, enjoyable and significant product through the eyes of the user.

By building significant experiences we are evoking emotions on our users which make them more available to return and to recommend the product to others. When that happens that means they turn into our fans. With this we can say that good emotional design brings brand loyalty.

Emotion determines how we perceive our world, organise our memory, and make important decisions.

Brosch, Tobias & Scherer, Klaus & Grandjean, Didier & Sander, David. (2013).

But be careful, because this applies also to negative experiences.
Actually, inducing negative emotions in your users is of the the many ways your product could fail.
Negative emotions prevent us from repeating mistakes and remember us to avoid things that we perceive as a threat. As humans we tend to remember bad experiences. We pay more attention actually to negative experiences over positive or neutral ones.

That’s why is so important to avoid or at least or at least to compensate a bad experience a user had when using your product.

On the contrary, positive experiences fuel our curiosity and appeal us to repeat the experience.

So the main goal of Emotional Design isn’t to deceive or trick the user, but to be an additional layer on top of a product that has a good functionality, reliability and usability.

There are three different levels on Emotional Design:

Visceral level, it’s all about the first impression that the user have by watching your product. mostly based on the product aesthetics and look and feel.

Behavioural level, refers to the usability of the product. How well the user can understand it or how well the user can learn to use it or if your product perform well.

Reflective level is concerned with the product impact on the user life after they used it.
How does it make the users feel?
– What values the users find attached to the product?

So, how can we implement Emotional Design?

1. Replicate the emotion

What kind of emotions you are trying to inspire?

Before starting you need to replicate the emotion and by that I mean to create the way you want your brand to communicate with users.

Try to discover ‘Who’ will be your brand and what will be its tone.
At this step, forget that you are building a system, because you are in fact building a way to communicate with your clients and make their lives easier.

in practical terms there are 6 areas you will need to take into consideration when applying Emotional Design to your product.

2. Contrast

Looking very different from your competitors will make you stand out.

Definitely being different from your competitors will make you stand out.
To achieve this you can use design to have a unique User Experience.
The shape, the colour, typography, emojis, content placement and overall functional approach could make a really big difference.
Taking Slack as an example I think that the very big difference from Slack lied on its Emotional Design.

The rounded shapes and vibrant colours but also the way Slack communicates to the User needs, made Slack stand out from its competitors. Actually, it was really fun to use slack after using the enterprise communication tools that existed before.

3. Humor

Humour is relatable and makes for great conversation.

By using humor you are adding personality to your brand /product helping users to interact more with a human-like than a machine-like interface.
A warm human tone or a funny animation will help you starting with that.

As examples of how humor could work for a brand I will use Spotify poster where maybe everyone can relate to. It almost feels that a friend is talking to you.

Another example is this Mailchimp ‘hi5 message’ , after the user completes and email marketing campaign. This message makes you feel good after you accomplished a goal. Makes you feel better after completing a task.

4. Surprise / Novelty

Presenting something new from time to time looks refreshing through the eyes of the user.

Evoke positive emotions by surprising your users.
Users get bored easily. So if you surprise your users you are increasing the feeling of exclusivity.
This can be really effective in getting users to fall in love with your brand and give them a reason to comeback.
A good example of this is the ‘Momentum dash’ Chrome Extension that surprises its users everyday with a different inspirational quote and a background image from a beautiful landscape.

Other example, is the ‘Dinosaur offline game’ on Chrome Web Browser.
How many of us started playing this game and forgot completely that we still didn’t have internet? The user gets surprised by something funny to be entertained while he waits for the internet to work again.

5. Customisation

Different users want different things, prepare your product to be adaptable.

Customisation is important so the user can feel in control over the experience.
The sense of control is a really powerful positive emotion.
A really good example of this is notion, the project management tool. Using notion one user can create and organise his projects in a totally different way from other.
Notion give us the tools to create what we want in the way we want.

6. Micro-interactions

Sometimes, it’s the little things that make experiences great and engaging.

First of all, motion attracts attention.
Using animation reduces cognitive load and helps the user to understand the function within the interface elements.
A transition between two different states of an object makes the UI look smooth instead of discontinuous.

7. Microcopy

Be attentive and caring with your customers.

Microcopy is all about the details.
Everything that as a default text on the UI needs to be customised in order to help the users to deal with the interface.
From form labels to error messages you need to take care of microcopy.
Medium does this very well when asking the user to login or register in the platform. As you can see, the modal that appears right after the user starts reading an article on medium.


Mistakes happen, that’s why it’s important to build a relationship of trust with your users.
The emotional engagement you build will save you in difficult moments.
While Emotional Design alone doesn’t make a product great it has the power to inspire strong feelings in users.

This can origin higher retention rates and positive word of mouth.
In today’s competitive market this could become an essential element to succeed.

Also published on Medium.

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