Delightful experiences

A great app, a beautiful device, an outstanding service, a solid brand; all of them have something in common: You experience them in ways that you didn’t anticipate. You were not expecting the joy they brought. You were surprised. You were delighted by unexpected rewards or behaviors that burned a long lasting impression into your brain, and possibly your heart. The app or service satisfied your functional/usable/reliable expectations, and suddenly you discovered the pleasurable layer. It just… happened. But what about the prolonged use of these apps or services? As a product designer, how do you ensure recurrent delight?

1. Bring fun to users

  • By putting care and detail into micro interactions.
  • By giving respect to something that doesn’t “deserve” it.
  • By creating an “Elastic” and “it’s alive!” environment.

2. Guide users

  • By anticipating where they’re going to go, and showing them the way.
  • By letting them take a sneak peak at what’s gonna happen next.
  • By providing a natural ‘escape’ route at any given moment.

3. Relax users

  • By clearing all the clutter from the screen and letting them focus on one important element at a time.
  • By introducing moments for them to reflect, assimilate content, and breathe.
  • By protecting their work from errors caused by [x].

4. Inform users

  • By acknowledging when their actions have an immediate, mid term or long term consequence.
  • By letting them know when something is about to disrupt them.
  • By showing precise, but BRIEF instructions for complex scenarios.

5. Reward users

  • By explicitly acknowledging them how good they did and what it means for their long term goals.
  • By giving them badges for frequency of use, duration of study sessions, and performance.
  • By keeping track of achievements and placing it on a clear roadmap.

6. Punish users

  • By blocking them from moving forward if their performance falls below a tolerance level.
  • By informing them of wrongful choices and actions on the spot, rather than on a summary moment.
  • By keeping all negative remarks in a confidential, private space, visible and acknowledgeable for the user only.

Mauricio Estrella: 6 principles for designing trustworthy learning experiences.

Measuring performance (e.g. task success rate) and satisfaction (e.g. ‘liking a Website’)

• Performance and satisfaction scores are strongly correlated, so if you make a design that’s easier to use, people will tend to like it more.

• Performance and satisfaction are different usability metrics, so you should consider both in the design process and measure both if you conduct quantitative usability studies.

JAKOB NIELSEN: User Satisfaction vs. Performance Metrics

Why we want things.

Any one of six universal principles of social influence can act as a catalyst to trigger an emotional response:

  • Reciprocation: We feel obliged to return favors.
  • Authority: We look to experts.
  • Commitment/Consistency: We want to act consistently with our commitments and values.
  • Scarcity: The less available a resource, the more we want it.
  • Liking: The more we like people, the more we want to say yes to them.
  • Social Proof: We look to others to guide our behavior.

In addition to the principles of social influence, there are psychological principles designers can leverage to increase engagement and help people to make informed choices. Making things easy, relevant, and trustworthy by building persuasive features into the interface helps elicit desired user behaviors—ones that align with the product’s business objectives.
Such psychological principles include:

  • Completeness: By nature, we feel the need to fill in gaps.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Letting customers know when they are doing well will keep them engaged.
  • Loss Aversion: People do not like to lose things once they have them, so alerting customers when they are about to lose out on something is an opportunity to maintain engagement.
  • Saving for Tomorrow: A U.S. study has shown that people are much more likely to make a commitment to spend money in the future than to spend it today.
  • The Power of Free: We are prone to go for free things, even if they come at a price later.
  • Susceptible Moments: Opportunities to cross- and up-sell must be timely so that they are delivered at the point at which people are most receptive.

Elisa del Gado: Persuasion in Design

Web headings

According to a Nielsen-study (2009), the first two words in a Web headline have a huge impact on whether or not people will click on a link.

    The best links in the study:

  • Used plain language
  • Were specific and clear
  • Used common words
  • Started with the essence of the message
  • Were action-oriented
    The worst links in the study:

  • Used bland, generic words
  • Used made-up words or terms
  • Started with after-dinner-speech-introduction language

Gerry McGovern: Writing Killer Web Headings and Links

Perception Matrix (Emotional Responses)

Bright * * * * * Subdued
Professional * * * * * Domestic
Light * * * * * Heavy
Plain * * * * * Pretty
Dramatic * * * * * Understated
Simple * * * * * Complex
Contemporary * * * * * Traditional
Sophisticated * * * * * Childish
Warm * * * * * Cold
Expressive * * * * * Restrained
Humorous * * * * * Serious
Open * * * * * Closed
Surprising * * * * * Expected
Colourful * * * * * Monotone
Friendly * * * * * Independent

Understanding how interfaces affect users


  1. Affective aspects of interaction design are concerned with the
    way interactive systems nake people respond in emotional ways.
  2. Well-designed interfaces can elicit good feelings in people.
  3. Aesthetically pleasing interfaces can be a pleasure to use.
  4. Expressive interfaces can provide reassuring feedback to users as
    well as be informative and fun.
  5. Badly designed interfaces often make people frustrated and angry.
  6. Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human qualities to
    objects. An increasingly popular form of anthropomorphism is to
    create agents and other virtual characters as part of an
  7. People are more accepting of believable interface agents.
  8. People often prefer simple cartoon-like agents to those that
    attempt to be humanlike.

From: Preece, J., Rogers, Y., Sharp, H. (2002), Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction, New York: Wiley