Designing emotional products to effectively engage the users
User Xperience

Designing emotional products to effectively engage the users

5 minutes read

Habil Emmanuail Jan 10 2020

Humans are emotional species. We tend to interpret things and judge them according to the feelings that they invoke among us. These feelings might vary on a large scale; while positive experiences cause us to be more curious about using something further, negative emotions proceed in making us avoid interacting with the product altogether. Depending on these feelings and emotions, we percept and try to understand the function and purpose of everything present around us.

Norman's 3 Levels of Emotional Design

In the book “Emotional Design”, researcher and author Don Norman explains three levels of design based on how people emotionally connect to different visual experiences. These can be defined as follows:

  1. Visceral Level: This describes the feelings that are triggered by the first impression of a product. An overwhelming initial experience can lead to an overall positive reaction about the object, because of which the user would feel the urge to further explore the functionality and might ignore other minor subsequent mistakes.
  2. Behavioral Level: This discusses the emotions caused after interpreting the overall usability of a product. This can be said to be the most decisive level as the complete user experience depends upon it. A product completing the tasks that are expected from it results in making the user feel victorious, invokes positive emotions such as joy and delight, and builds trust among them.
  3. Reflective Level: This refers to the after-effects of the product’s usability and the impact it had made on our lives. A good reflective level experience means that the user is emotionally satisfied with the product and would consider reusing it. The level is important, as no matter how the experience is, people often share it with others. This decides if the brand is going to gain new users or even lose the older ones.

As an example, let’s see how the popular media-services provider and production company Netflix caters to these three levels of emotions in their design.

Pro Tip! A brief introduction to User Interface Design

  1. Visceral Level: As far as this level is concerned, Netflix interface consists of high-resolution pictures and videos over a dark contrasting background that attracts the user and suits the theme of entertainment. They provide sufficient information with improving the aesthetics of the product, like showing the progress of each watched series or movie with a red progress bar. It looks visually appealing over the dark color scheme while providing information about the progress status.

  1. Behavioral Level: To capture this level, Netflix has focused on increasing the usability of their product by making the design very user-friendly. Elements such as navigation and search are easy to use. Moreover, the data is organized according to the audience’s mental models. The clear and easy-to-use interface helps the users to find what they are looking for and the feature of receiving a high-resolution cinema experience even on low internet is remarkable from the users’ perspective.
  2. Reflective Level: As we know, if the users build a positive emotional connection with the product, they suggest it to others having similar interests to the service the product provides. In the case of Netflix, users share stories about the viewed media with their friends and family and even watch it together, which is a great example of the reflective design. 

Invoking Emotions as Diverse Objectives 

Triggering emotional sentiments is not always the major aim of a product's design, but it always is an important aspect that needs to be kept in mind when designing a product. The intensity of this can be varying, though. For example:

  • Emotions as the Primary Goal:

Emotional Design has to be intensive in the design of a product when invoking emotions is its primary goal. A major example is the entertainment media, such as movies, music, and games.

  • Emotion as secondary Goal:

With products such as e-commerce websites, buying and selling are the primary goals. It is the secondary goal of such products to create emotions of happiness and satisfaction etc.

  • Elicit Emotion:

This is the case when the primary goal of a product is different but still, invoking emotions is beneficial for its achievement. For example, puzzles and learning games for children that award prizes on completing levels, etc.

Emotional Design Elements

Emotional design element helps to create remarkable product experiences for users. Some of the major aspects of this phenomenon are:

  • Emotion-Memory Link: Humans tend to remember things that trigger some kind of strong feelings in them. Such experiences stay in their memory for longer as compared to other products, even if they’re functioning properly.
  • Aesthetic-Usability Effect: Products with visually appealing interfaces compel the users to explore and even use it more than they had initially planned.
  • Persuasive Emotion: Feelings have a major impact on our ability of decision-making. Various emotions urge us to make quick decisions without careful planning.
  • Ownership Effect: Customization in the interface according to the targeted users makes them feel touched and in-control. This results in more interaction and value from their side.

Affective Computing:

Affective Computing is the branch of computing that deals with how a computer system or application responds according to the responses of its users. It detects emotions through camera or other sensors and adapts the content according to the current emotional state of the user.

This technique is expected to be very helpful in the future times when interaction with the robots will be common, so they would be able to detect our states and change their modes accordingly to have better social interaction with us. 

Tips for Effective Emotional Design

Some tips to make the product design emotion-evoking for the users are discussed below:

  • Visual Elements: Some of the interface elements depict very obvious emotional invoking, such as emoticons, emoji, and gifs used by chat messengers. Furthermore, many brands use images or colors associated with a specific feeling to help them achieve the desired goal, like restaurants and bakeries using red, yellow and orange in their color schemes which are all known to prompt hunger.
  • Personalization: As discussed already, personalization of the user experience gives the users a feeling of entitlement. The users can also be allowed to add customizations according to their desire.
  • Friendly Tone: Using a responsive and approachable voice tone to communicate with the users make them more comfortable in interacting with the product. The use of light humor, as well as the storytelling approach, helps them feel at ease, invokes joy while they are working and enables them to relate to the content.

Hidden Surprises: People often enjoy subtle surprises in the form of little animations, indicators or side-actions. Such micro-interactions make the user experience more lively and exciting. Examples include controls described by real-life icons like a shopping cart for e-commerce or magnifying glass to zoom in, etc., small animations when a page is loading, icons moving when brought in focus and pulling down a page to refresh it, etc.

Habil Emmanuail

Habil Emmanuail

Habil is an IBM certified Design Thinking practitioner and a member of the Interaction Design Foundation. He has been working as a UX consultant and User Centered designer across web and mobile applications for almost four years. His area of expertise include UI/UX Design, UX Research, Visual UI Design, Prototyping, Information Architecture, Agile Scrum, Branding as well as HTML/CSS, UX Writing, Research and Analytics and Strategy and Planning.