Emotional bonding is at the core of creating loyal users in the world of design. How a user perceives, uses, interacts, and forms an opinion about your digital product is largely driven by how intelligent as well as intuitive your UX/UI is. How does it flow, function, and feel to the user? Let’s find out the part played by emotional design to get the answers. 

What is emotional design?

It means creating a design that evokes emotion in the user to generate desired/positive user experience. It’s getting the user to react in a certain way, whether to create excitement, urgency, immersion, or pure delight. Apart from discerning the usability and functionality of your digital product, users will consider the ‘pleasure’ factor of the entire experience. This is where emotional connection plays a big role. 

Designing with specific intentions

In his book titled Emotional Design, author Donald Norman describes four kinds of pleasures that emotional design can invoke. Physio-pleasure (with five senses, i.e. in ASMR, gaming, entertainment products), socio-pleasure (networking, dating apps, etc), psycho-pleasure (news sites, productivity apps, learning platforms), ideo-pleasure (movies, art, books, philosophical/intellectually-driven content). Depending on the combination of types of pleasurable experience you want your design to call forth, UX/UI ideas and techniques should be incorporated, all the while being guided by the business value creation and ROI goals. 

Design for the senses

According to Norman, our visceral brains create emotional responses based on the look and feel of the product, like a first impression absorbed in through the external senses. Here’s where the psychology of visual language including symmetry, patterns, proportion, size, texture, color, and structure comes into play. 

Each color has its essence that can be associated with different moods. For instance, red is used to draw attention or to show danger. Green is associated with health/success while blue is for comfort. Similarly, shape psychology should be studied and applied while designing the layout, menu, buttons, logo, etc. By using the right associations. In general, rectangles/squares incite feelings of discipline and safety while circles could symbolise mystery, and spirals could represent growth. Design concepts as a whole, such as minimalism, essentialism, maximalism, or styles like vintage, retro, pop art, etc. can generate different moods depending on the user demographic, gender and ages. Ultimately, designers need to research these aesthetic elements and ascertain that they produce the desired sensations at first look. 

Design for function and value

If the website looks good but doesn’t perform tasks or run smoothly and fails to bring any satisfaction, intelligibility, and memorability after the encounter, it evokes negative emotions and feedback. These are behavioral and reflective levels of emotional responses that are created by UX/UI. Users feel satisfied when the design is intuitive, e.g. auto-fill, quick page transition, visibly accessible menu bar, the technical abilities of a website to accomplish the advertised tasks, etc. 

Add personalisation

Certain positively impactful personal touches can leave the user feeling valued and secure to the extent your design creates a trustworthy environment. This includes, but is not limited to, interesting storytelling scrolling, congenial/smart and inviting copy, customised user mascots, personal helpers, videos/GIFs, contests, emoticons, micro-gestures, voice assistance, testimonials, personalized greetings/pages, and anything else that involves a positive affirmation from the users. The idea is to generate an emotion of ease, familiarity, and comfort without any effort from the user’s side. Another emotional design element consists of the cognitive appeal of the content based on individual preferences.  According to research, 74% of users leave the website if the content isn’t filtered to their likings and taste. Sites like Netflix, Spotify, Pinterest, YouTube never fail to evoke a sense of excitement and enthusiasm in users because they’re great at personal recommendations.

Use technology in the right places

You may learn a lot from theories and books about human emotions but nothing’s better than direct and specific knowledge from your users. Use surveys/focus groups to gauge their emotional responses to the visual appeal, usability, and pleasurability of the design especially in conjunction with page view analytics/numbers. You can also use advanced technology like facial expression tech/sensors for emotional response recognition to build Adaptive User Interfaces. The emotion detection market in AI is predicted to grow hugely in the coming years. This technology allows for AI to recognise, duplicate or respond to human emotions and accomplish tasks, generate feedback, predict behaviour or provide a variety of personalized services in form of chatbots, Voice Assistants, among others. The more advanced the AI algorithm, the better will be the UX. 

Advanced machine learning can also be applied to gather data on bounce rates, page views, session time/length, etc., to create a more intuitive and user-friendly design that appeals to all emotional parameters of end-users.