An Event Apart: Emotional Interface Design

by Luke Wroblewski May 24, 2010

In his Emotional Interface Design talk at An Event Apart in Boston MA, 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.

  • Sites are becoming much more informal about how they interact with and approach people on the Web. This may be traced back to the growth of social networks. We are seeing more of people’s lives online –this drives more human interactions.
  • Maslow outlined the order in which humans needs things. What things do we need from the computers we use and in the interfaces we interact with? We need them to be functional, reliable, usable, and pleasurable.
  • Creating a useful product is a triumph but we can go further. Shooting for just usable is a bit low. Usable is equivalent to edible. We can do better.
  • Personality is a platform for emotion. It is a conduit for engagement. Personality invites empathy.
  • There are a few things that are universally beautiful. Certain ratios mirror the human form and we are attracted to those because we see ourselves in them.
  • Gestalt: we are scanning the World and looking for patterns –for what is different. We then determine if those things are good or bad for us. Contrast helps us separate elements and find what is useful.
  • When we use emotion in the design of our interfaces, people will be more apt to forgive shortcomings, follow our lead, and sing our praises. When someone adores your (web) application, that's real power.
  • "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. This goes back to our cost benefit analysis approach to parsing the World.
  • Forgiveness: we’re humans and we make mistakes. Things will go wrong so we need an insurance policy when they do.
  • Limits: people have certain shortcomings. We can only take in so much at any given time. Attention is finite. When you demand attention in one place, you distract from another.
  • 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.
  • An open system: people project themselves in to it. This is why the book is always better than the movie. Because you create the visuals in your head and “own” the experience.
  • When confronted with too many choices, our internal cost/benefit analysis fails. If you add something, you're going to lose something.
  • Have we changed the way we communicate on the Web? We have not changed as humans but our relationships have become more honest.