An Event Apart: Emotional Interface Design

by November 3, 2010

In his Emotional Interface Design talk at An Event Apart in San Diego CA, 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. We’ve been missing the pleasurable elements of Web design for too long.
  • 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. It allows people to connect with each other. We’re born with 50% of our personality intact –the rest comes from our environment and peers. Humans want to emphasize with one another. We want to connect. Personality allows us to empathize with objects.
  • 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. Most people (other than geeks) don’t love software –but they could!
  • "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.
  • Create emotional interaction points but don’t let them interfere with the core utility of your application. Make sure people can still get things done.
  • 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. An emotional connection can prepare you.
  • 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.
  • When confronted with too many choices, our internal cost/benefit analysis fails. If you add something, you're going to lose something.
  • Party poopers: some people just want to get things done. Mail Chimp has a party pooper mode that turns off the jokes and chimp images. .007% of people have opted out.
  • Promotions can be creative about how we connect with our audience. Page views went up 600% when Coffee Cup software introduced an easter egg hunt on their site that gave away products when people found easter eggs. +217% Facebook fans, and +170% more Twitter followers. +3,700 more posts in the forum.
  • Have we changed the way we communicate on the Web? We have not changed as humans but our relationships have become more honest. This helps make us more human.