An Event Apart: Emotional Interface Design

by Luke Wroblewski April 6, 2010

In his Emotional Interface Design talk at An Event Apart in Seattle WA, Aarron Walter talked about focusing on more than usability in Web application design by outlining ways to make stronger connections to people and their emotional needs.

  • Our expectations and needs for Web sites: they have to be functional, reliable, usable, and pleasurable –in that order of importance.
  • The bar is low. We are all just trying to make out Websites usable. Usable is the equivalent of edible (in the food industry). Before your app can create an emotional relationship, you have to get the basic usability right. But that’s just the start.
  • Personality: the way you design and plan interactions can create personality. Personality is a platform for emotion. "Personality invites empathy" in design.
  • When we are born with firmware. Gestalt is hard-wired into us. We don’t really think about it but we notice similarities and differences. Zebras have high contrast, so in a herd they can't be seen. Intentional noise in the predator's signal. If you are not a designer, contrast will take you a long way to making use of gestalt.
  • Gestalt fails when there’s too much visual information. Our natural gestalt shuts down.
  • Is this thing good or bad for me? We are always doing a cost benefit analysis when deciding what to do.
  • When someone adores your (web) application, that's real power.
  • Emotional usability –people will forgive shortcomings when the benefit outweighs the cost. If you can stack the deck in a positive direction, people will stick with you. People will forgive your shortcomings if you reward them with positive emotion.
  • "Treats" (like the chimp in Mail Chimp) aren't necessarily childish. They can make your site more engaging on a human level.
  • Showing your humanity helps make a connection. Put yourself out there and people will respond.
  • Humans have doubts –we are all a little self-conscious. We are natural skeptics.
  • An open system –why the book is always better than the movie. Because you create the visuals in your head and “own” the experience.
  • People are not lazy, they are just looking for the path of least resistance. If people are not going down the path you want them to, you can try bribery. Dropbox supports learning by giving you more storage space by doing tutorials that show you how to use the app.
  • The difference between Bright Kite and Gowalla is no reward or discovery (no items to find in Bright Kite).
  • When confronted with too many choices, our internal cost/benefit analysis fails. If you add something, you're going to lose something.
  • Attention is finite. When you demand attention in one place, you distract from another.
  • Have we changed the way we communicate on the Web? We have not changed as humans but our relationships have become more honest.
  • Mail Chimp has a “party pooper” setting that removes jokes for people that don’t respond well to humor. There is some danger in putting yourself out there.