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Design and emotion have always been intrinsically connected—think of the satisfying feeling of pushing play on a cassette player or placing the needle seamlessly down on a record. Nowadays, there aren’t many opportunities to interact with analog objects, but strong emotional responses aren’t confined to the analog world. Designing emotionally for a digital medium can dramatically change how users engage with content and influence how they view a product or an entire company. Clunky UX or frivolous interactions can deter a user from ever using your product again, while satisfying designs can help foster a loyalty to your brand.

If you aren’t considering a user’s emotions when designing UX, you’re doing it wrong. Here are the key things to consider in creating emotional design.

Know your audience

Before you begin designing your user interface, you have to identify your target audience. A design meant to elicit a positive response from your ideal user will probably be hated by someone you’d never expect to use your product. It’s key to design with an understanding of who you want to be using your product, so you can increase the likelihood that your UX will garner a positive emotional response.

Understand the levels of design

In his 1988 book, The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman outlines the three different levels of design, all of which influence a user’s emotional response to objects or interfaces.

They are as follows:

  1. Visceral Level: A design’s first impression, based purely on aesthetics.
  2. Behavioral Level: How a design functions, its effectiveness, and ease of use.
  3. Reflective Level: How the product relates to the use and fits into their lifestyle.

These three distinct levels of design combine to influence the emotional response to a product or interface.

Remove unnecessary obstacles

One of the most common negative responses to UX is frustration. Imagine you’re trying to shop for something online and you experience trouble scrolling through the image carousel, or when you click “ADD TO CART,” your shopping cart icon remains unchanged. Did you add it? Did you add it multiple times? Is it even the product you want? Bad UX chases users away in seconds, and can leave a negative impression so intense, they’ll never return. Streamline your UX so that every interaction is essential, not frivolous, and make sure everything you’ve created actually works.

Have fun

Some of the best examples of designs that prompt a positive emotional response are from companies that seem to be having the most fun—like Headspace, the meditation app. The design is vibrant and friendly, with adorable creatures scattered throughout the various meditation pages that help ease users into a calm state. The UI is simple throughout, from the homepage to daily meditation statistics, and the animations are soothing, not jarring. Read more about the brilliance of Headspace’s design here.  

Sure, good UX is about ease of accessibility, implicit legibility, and showing off the product. But the best UX takes emotional responses into account in its design which promotes positive responses from ideal users.

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