Most important stuff first: Thank you!
A big ‘Thank you!’ to everyone who attended my talk about designing for emotional experiences. You were a great and really supportive audience, and I really enjoyed it. I hope you had fun too!
Find the slides from the presentation below. The recommended readings are listed below the slides.
Hi everyone! My name is Jiri, I work as an UX consultant for POSSIBLE and I also study Human-computer Interaction at UCL. Today, I’m going to talk about how to design emotional experiences based on insights from users.
Let me tell you a short story. About 8 months ago, I was designing an Experience Map for American Express. The brief was to describe journey of their product and how our personas interact with that product at given times. Part of that Experience Map I designed was this diagram showing the emotional state of the main persona – the customer – through all phases of interaction with the product. You can see, according to the map, that the customer is having some ups and downs, but is quite happy in general.
Do you think that this emotional timeline was based on some data collected from users? No. Or you might think that after the map was completed, I tested the experience with the actual users and amended the map accordingly? Again, no. How useful is a deliverable that is not rooted in the evidence from users? How can it inform our designs?
I will tell you about tools for capturing users’ emotions and frameworks for designing emotional experiences today. These tools and techniques are very simple and when you get back to work on Monday, I want you to start using what you’ll learn here today straight away.
We know that insights from users are the core of the user-centred design. Many of us even run various research activities, ranging from think aloud walkthroughs and paper prototyping sessions to a full blown contextual inquiry. I believe that all of us can agree that great design needs to be rooted in users’ goals and needs.
When it comes to designing for emotion though, we are lost.
Instead of insight from users, we tend to use our sense, our expertise, or, in the best case scenario, patterns that others claim as successful. We don’t deliberately design for a specific set of emotions and we don’t iterate our designs based on what our users feel when they interact with our products.
There are a few well known books on this topic, such as Designing for Emotion by Aaron Walter or Seductive Interaction Design by Stephen Anderson. What you learn from those books though are design principles, that might help you to design products with friendly and happy interfaces, that might make your users smile.
I talk about patterns like use of anthropomorfic design, use of friendly language, Easter egg games, surprising users and playing with their expectations, emotional impact of colours, or creating product that has friendly and “personality.”
But not all products should be happy, casual and making jokes as the MailChimp chimpanzee.
Your product’s personality might look more like this.
Or even like this! Think about funeral service website that would talk to their customers in casual friendly language and make occasional jokes. Or about NHS website where patients can search for urgent help – such website has to facilitate very different emotions to MailChimp as well.
We can’t use same emotional patterns to design every website. Most of them might be very straightforward, such us e-commerce or b2b corporate websites, but there is a whole lot of digital services that might be very different to that. Also, think about the future – we are designing websites now, but as the age of ubiquitous computing is approaching, we might find ourselves designing experiences for a whole range of other digitally enhanced objects for smart homes for example, where the emotional aspect of products will be much more important.
Essentially, to stand true to our user-centred approach, I believe that the emotional side of UX should be rooted in the evidence from user research.
So how can you research emotions? There are various ways how to do it, and I bet you heard about measuring emotions with the help of EEG, skin conductivity sensors, pupil dilation sensors, fascial muscle contraction cameras and other hi-tech solutions. These methods are very accurate, but you need the technology to do them. I want to introduce you to rather low-tech techniques that you can start using straight away, just with pen and paper.
I’ll introduce you to a very simple technique of capturing emotions on the fly. Imagine you are doing a think aloud user session. You are observing how the user interacts with the product, making notes of usability problems, and exploring how is the user’s mental model matching with the conceptual model of the product.
But what if you want to record what the user feels at each stage of the interaction? You need the user to self report the feelings, but it usually gets difficult for people to express their emotions. The tool you are going to use should not distract the user too much, or create a massive cognitive load. A tool like that might be the Self-evaluation Manikins.
Provide users with a scale on which they can quickly asses their emotional state. On this scale, they will mark how happy they feel.
On this scale, the users will mark how energetic they feel,
and finally, here they will mark how “big in the world” they feel.
This is a quick and unobtrusive way how to record user’s emotions. There are a few limitations you need to keep in mind. The scale allows to capture only very narrow area of potential emotional states. That is the trade off for the simplicity and effectiveness of capturing emotions on he fly. Also, the technique might not be totally accurate, because some users might have problem matching the manikin and their emotion. That is quite normal though, as we recognise other people’s emotions only in 80% of cases.
If you have more time to evaluate, or you want to evaluate emotions on much more granular level, it is a good idea to do a study that takes slightly longer time.
The ideal format for that is a diary study. Users keep using the product, and make notes about their experience into a diary that is provided. This technique can be easily hacked for capturing emotions.
Provide your users with diaries, and also cards with printed Geneva Emotional Wheel on them. The wheel provides much broader range of emotions for assessment, as well a strength of a particular emotion. Your users interact with the product, and you instruct them to mark their feelings on the wheel throughout their experience. Start with their expectations and their immediate reactions to the product, continue with marking emotions during he actual interaction, and finally let the users to capture their emotions when they tell stories about the product to their friends and feeling they have when they reflect upon their experience.
Your users will use the Geneva Wheel as a scale and will mark their emotions on it accordingly. The scale is much broader and has finer granularity than the manikins, and also allows to record how strong the emotion is, from the centre of the wheel to the border. When you finish your diary study, you collect the diaries, wheels and of course interview your participant.
You collected lots of data about how your users feel when they interact with your product. But how can you utilise that data?
First, use the data to enrich your personas. This is the easiest way how to feed your evidence into next iteration of the product. You might also review your Experience Map if you have one, or build a new one. Such map can be valuable tool to communicate the experience across your project team and with all stakeholders. If you find that results of your research does not match product’s goal and experience you plan to build, it is time for an action!
How can you then start designing the right emotional experience? There are several design frameworks that can help you to stay on the right track. The most simple and straightforward is Don Norman’s “Framework for Emotional Design” that has been published in Emotional Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things.
The framework will help you to separately focus on three main parts of the experience: Visceral, that is all about immediate feelings, look and first impressions, behavioural, that focuses on the experience during the actual interaction with the product, and finally reflective that is all about how the user feels after using the product, about reflecting upon the usage and what the user tells about the product to his or her friends.
Create a table with three columns, Visceral, Behavioural and Reflective, and put down emotions you want your user experience in each part of the experience in the highest granularity possible.
This document might serve as a source for the new Experience Map, or be a standalone deliverable.
Then develop your minimum viable product and test it with the manikins, or even better with the Geneva Wheel. Compare results with your Visceral – Behavioural and Reflective sheet, and iterate the product. The circle closes and you achieved to design real emotional experience based on user research.
So now when you know about tools that you need to design emotional experiences, I’d like yo to go and start designing. Make your users happy, surprised, scared or disgusted. Just go and design some emotions!
Recommended reading on designing for emotions
1) Essential reading
- Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things – if you haven’t read this book yet go and get it. A must for anyone interested in designing for emotions.
- Affective computing on Interaction Design Encyclopedia – great starting point for those who want to get slightly deeper into the affective design.
- Affective Computing – brilliant book on affective computing by Rosalind Picard from the MIT Media Lab.
2) Capturing emotions
- The sensual evaluation instrument: Developing a trans-cultural self-report measure of affect
- Evaluation of natural emotions using self assessment manikins
- PrEmo – commercial tool that is using self-assessment manikins to capture emotions.
3) Emotional design frameworks
Norman’s Framework for Emotional Design
- Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things – I already mentioned this book above, but I repeat it here because it is the source of the framework I was mentioning in my talk
- More information about the framework on the JND website
- Underlying theory for the Framework for Emotional Design
Jordan’s Four Pleasures framework
- Designing Pleasurable Products – read the chapter Four Pleasures
McCarthy & Wright’s Technology as Experience framework