How Emotions Play a Role in UX/UI Design | Camber Creative

Jenna Rodrigues
May 3, 2022

Emotions can drive human behavior, including our purchasing decisions. You have probably experienced this when your emotions get the better of your rational side, like when you buy some chocolates at the grocery store just because the packaging looks appealing. Sound familiar?

Humans react to digital products, whether it is a website, an app, or a digital device, in the same way — with emotions. In fact, many consumers interact with digital devices like they interact with humans and expect digital products to mimic human behavior. No longer is it viable to create a usable product that meets their functional needs. What matters to consumers is the “pleasure factor,” which can only be enhanced by emotional bonding in User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design.

How Is Emotion Connected to Design?

Here’s the science: our emotions result from an external stimulus that leads to feelings because of biochemical and electrical reactions in the brain which drive behavior or a reaction.

Every feeling that we experience is because a person, an event, or even a product has triggered an emotion. Feelings by nature are subjective, influenced by our perception. What you may feel about something may trigger a different feeling within someone else.

Products that can elicit positive feelings in consumers have the potential to provide a greater user experience (UX) and thus drive consumer loyalty.

UX design must consider every characteristic and element of the product that shapes the experience users have with the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability, look, and function. Apart from considering the usability and the functionality of the product, this involves thinking of what emotions they evoke and how a user feels when interacting with the product.

Obviously, positive emotions and feelings result in a positive experience and consumers tend to repeat these experiences because it makes them feel good. In other words, products that evoke emotions that result in positive user experiences can affect a company’s bottom line and success. That is why UX designers take an “emotional design” approach to create an emotional connection to the product.

What Is Emotional Design?

UX/UI designers use various techniques to understand how people feel about certain situations or products and they incorporate their findings into designing digital products that evoke desired (usually positive) emotions, such as excitement, comfort, delight, urgency, and sometimes even negative emotions like fear, sadness, and regret. These emotions ultimately result in a positive user experience, thus strengthening the bond between the consumers and the products.

Thus, emotional design is how digital products make a user feel. Because feelings are complex and subjective to individual experiences, UX/UI designers have to address three levels of cognitive responses in their design to create a long-lasting emotional bond, according to Don Norman, author of “Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday Things.” The three levels of emotional responses are:

Visceral: The most basic level of emotional responses, typically their gut responses or “first impressions” of the products.

Behavioral: Users subconsciously evaluate the functionality of the product, how it helps them, and how easy it is for them to find a solution.

Reflective: Users consciously gauge the product in terms of functionality, performance, benefits, and value for money. This is where the user forms an overall opinion of the product.

How To Incorporate Emotional Design In UX/UI Design

UX/UI designers need a deep understanding of the users before they can incorporate emotions into a good functional design.

To discover what the users need and how to give them the best solution, UX researchers use various UX research methods during the design process. These methods include user interviews, surveys, ethnographic field studies, usability testing, observational studies, and analytics.

While doing research, the UX team pays close attention to how people feel about a certain situation or product, or things they talk passionately about. These are often powerful indicators of deeply ingrained motivation or user needs that must be addressed in product design.

UX designers and writers also use tools like emotion maps and customer journey maps to understand the user and prioritize where and how to help them better and give them a user experience they appreciate and love.

All this research culminates in a design driver or brief defined by the UX team, which indicates the desired emotions that UX designers need to evoke in users, such as accomplishment, pride, joy, or safety.

Here are some ways the UX team applies emotional design to digital products:

Engage Users With Micro Gestures

Include humanized effects and personal touches on all aspects of the product, which gives the impression that the user is interacting with a person. One of the best examples of this is Apple’s screen shake for incorrect passwords which mimics head shaking by humans when they disapprove or say “No.”

Other micro gestures that can be used are subtle animated effects, emojis, and sounds to make the digital product more engaging and personable.

Mood trackers are another example of micro gestures. Our mood can influence how we interact with products and using a mood tracker is another way to personalize the users’ experiences and connect with them emotionally. The mindfulness app Headspace, for example, has a mood meter that enables users to check in and record their emotions and feelings so they can track and evaluate their behavior and consider helpful strategies.

Micro gestures can also be built into user feedback using clever effects, like sliders and animated emojis, in the user interface.

Customize Microcopy

Labels, headlines, calls-to-action, welcome screens, error messages, and notifications are all opportunities for UX writers to humanize short copy and connect with users using the brand’s tone and voice.

Some great examples of microscopy by brands are Dollar Shave Club, Grammarly, Slack, Facebook, Duolingo, and, of course, Mailchimp, where they use human terms and phrases to accommodate emotions.

Give Personality to Design

UX design can embody emotions through various design elements, such as using appropriate fonts, styles, videos, sounds, and images to convey emotions.

Many designers also use the power of the camera to create interactive experiences, such as AR masks and Animojis, enabling users to express their emotions.

Color and contrast also play a vital role in emotional design. Colors influence emotions, behavior, and how users judge a product, app, or website. The wrong colors can deter users by evoking unwanted emotions, while the right colors and tones can arouse and boost positive emotions.

Personalize Experiences

Today, users expect personalized experiences at every touchpoint with research showing 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand that provides personalized experiences.

Digital products can improve customer experiences and deliver personalization through clever design and interactivity. One simple example of such personalization is delivering content based on user preferences. Big Brands like Netflix and Amazon show recommendations based on visitor browsing and purchasing behavior to create convenience and a memorable experience.

Designing Emotional UX

While considering emotional design, it’s also important to not forget about the basic features of the product. Functionality, usability, and reliability are as important as emotional design. However, products that go one step further and tap into human emotions stand out from those that don’t. These digital products not only create memorable user experiences but also drive adoption, brand loyalty, and sales.

If you’re looking for a full-service digital product team for long-term success, contact Camber Creative.

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