mafulechkaMarch 12, 2020, 4:02 p.m.

Emotional UX design for creating desired products

One product can rarely satisfy everyone, so it's important to understand both the real and hidden needs of your intended users. The product must provide the functionality to meet their real needs, and it must be easy for them to interact with it. But to create a great product, designers also need to understand how users react emotionally to the product.

To better understand the needs of users, Aarron Walter proposed the following hierarchy for them (Figure 1). At the lowest level, the product must be functional to meet the needs of the users. Further, the product must be reliable and usable . Once the bottom layers are in place, he suggests that you focus on making your product pleasurable .

Figure 1. Walter's Hierarchy of User Needs

According to the hierarchy, higher needs can be achieved after lower ones are satisfied. So a beautiful product that doesn't really solve users' problems can't satisfy their needs.

Design "for emotions" is based on human psychology. Research shows that people tend to perceive attractive products as "more useful" than less attractive ones. They are more likely to tolerate small usability issues with more visually appealing products. Aesthetically pleasing products can evoke positive emotions and create pleasant memories that last for a long time, increase trust and the likelihood that the user will want to interact with the product again. Emotional design is also about preparing to deal with negative emotions when using a product: how to overcome obstacles and help the user deal with problems.

To understand emotional design, Donald Norman proposed a hierarchy of emotions: visceral, behavioral, and reflective (Figure 2). They are part of any design and are intertwined with cognition and emotion.

Figure 2. Norman's hierarchy of emotions

The famous "WOW-effect"

Great design at the lowest (visceral) level of the hierarchy can elicit spontaneous, positive reactions that allow you to create a "Wow effect". The level reflects the user's first reactions to the appearance of the product: look, feel and sound. Seeing something irresistible, unexpected, or unique can elicit positive reactions. An example is the speedometer in Qt's digital cockpit concept (Figure 3), which uses several graphical effects such as shaders and particles to improve the feel of acceleration and deceleration.

Picture 3. Attractive or exciting design? Speedometer in Qt's digital cockpit concept

A professional visceral interface design can make the user happy, intrigued and excited, and create a sense of anticipation. Initial user reactions set the context for further interaction and experience with the product.

Ease of use ensures positive behavioral emotions

Behavioral emotions appear when the user uses the product. It should provide proper functionality and be clear, efficient, easy to learn and use. Using the product, the user forms a deeper understanding and opinion about it. When a product is effective and usable, the user is satisfied and more likely to use it again.

Behavioral Design should be user-centric because it is sensitive to, for example, user experience, education, and culture. It should provide, for example, the right mental models, functionality, terminology, tone of voice, and visuals to help the user connect with the product and meet their needs. A simple and clean design means there are fewer elements that grab the user's attention. The user needs less time to familiarize and learn the system, memorize task flows and, ultimately, to complete tasks.

Since the level of behavior is associated with the use of the product, it should encourage the user to interact with it. Things like subtle visual features, dynamic icons and indicators can make a product feel alive, responsive, and even fun. Pleasant surprises such as relevant and personal recommendations, well-designed user experience and smart interactions (as in Figure 4) will influence the user's behavioral responses.

Figure 4. An example of smart interaction and the visual ability to move a notification from the left screen to the screen on the right.

Regardless of the design, people make mistakes or the system may not work as expected. These situations cause negative reactions, stress, frustration and anxiety. Therefore, it is extremely important to prepare for them. The project must communicate quickly, clearly and truthfully what has happened, as well as suggest ways out of the situation.

Reflective level

The highest level is reflective, and it also determines the long-term overall impression of the product after its use. For example, the user learns about what he values and thinks about how he feels after that, linking memories and making a self-assessment. Unlike the other two levels, the reflective level works consciously. It helps the user to understand, interpret and evaluate the product. The level may dominate lower levels, and the user may override the initial impression and influence behavior through reasoning.

Attractiveness is a visceral-level phenomenon, but what is considered beautiful comes from the reflective level and depends on experience, knowledge, training, culture and individual differences.

Figure 5. Qt digital cockpit concept

The Reflective level is the level where users' desire to own a product can be maximized through things like prestige, rarity, and exclusivity. A popular example of reflective emotion is the preservation and storage of product packaging after unpacking.


Creating amazing visceral, behavioral and reflective designs will provide a wonderful experience for what the user loves. But how to get there? Obviously, people must first know about a product in order to desire it. The product must look attractive in order to attract the attention of users. Next, the user must use the product and make sure of its convenience and functionality, that the product really does what he needs. If the user is satisfied, he feels satisfied, begins to trust the product and wants to use it again. Finally, if a product can generate a positive reaction on all levels, people will fall in love with it and promote it to others.

The launch of the first Apple iPhone in 2007 is a good example. The phone looked sleek, elegant and unique compared to other smartphones. iPhone marketing has focused on showcasing the iPhone's slim design and unique features, such as multi-touch, that have never been seen on other phones on the market. The phone was attractive and a great marketing campaign generated a lot of takers before it even started shipping. Through promotional videos and reviews, most people knew how to use the phone's features without even touching it. With that and Apple's simplicity-focused design, the phone was efficient and easy to use. In addition, the availability of the iPhone was initially limited, so owning it created a sense of pride, exclusivity and prestige. Because the product was fun to use, new iPhone owners quickly fell in love with it and became phone aficionados.

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