Summary: Emotion is not to be underestimated in human decision-making, as recent US elections and Twitter's analysis of election tweets show. In the same way candidates with the strongest emotional appeals get voters attention, so do designs. Emotion is important to confront in a design, but also should be measured and used as a tool to gain deeper user engagement.
As this analysis from Twitter shows, Trump won emotion. Politically he utilized all emotion (good and bad) to attract attention to his "fix America" message. His use of emotion attracted many voters, unpredicted by US media polls. So what does this mean for your user experience?
Emotion researchers will tell you that emotion is one of the most important factors in appraising our experiences. Emotion colors decision-making and impacts our perceptions about a thing (website, candidate) etc. Some software developers and engineering managers will tell you that thinking logically* about a software feature is valuable. But that's thinking like a Democratic strategist, according to Cognitive scientists who have studied this phenomenon. Republican strategists, studies show, historically tend to understand and use emotion (also see Lakoff).
In this 2016 election, what no-one anticipated, was that Trump would harness negative emotion (most politicians stay away from that for obvious reasons!). Few understood the impact of negative emotion (until now). In politics that might be a new trend, but it won't fly with a PR or design strategy (see this post Is your design a PR problem?)
*Note: While thinking logically is ultimately where you end up in UX design, the starting point should be on probabilities of use, use scenarios, emotional and social factors that impact your user engagement.
So what should we learn from this?
Just as in politics, user experience design strategy must include an understanding, measurement and use of emotion. Why? Emotion wins.
Remember, you have 50 milliseconds (0.5 sec) to make a good impression on a website (Lindgaard et. al. 2006). Google's research (Tuch et. al. 2012) drops it further to 17 milliseconds (0.017 sec) for certain design elements. This means feelings of trust for a design occur without conscious thought. Good visual design impacts whether users perceive it as easy to use, which has been found to impact their intention to purchase.
Where to start...
5 Questions We Often Ask Our Clients about Emotional Value:
1. Do you believe that emotion is important but difficult to quantify?
This has traditionally been a concern but new tools have emerged in the past 5 years that make it easier to incorporate and measure emotion. Experience Dynamics recently conducted icon emotion measurement for HP. In a few days of emotion assessment and usability testing, we were able to quantify good from bad, using hard data (scientifically and cross-culturally validated) what users hated and what they loved. This added credible insight and data to a conversation that was largely an internal sway of opinions, up to that point. Note: We are adding more emotion measurement tools to our Usability Labs for client use.
2. What measures are in place to evaluate emotion at a product UI/UX level?
If you have not even thought about this, go back and fix #1. Emotion is not an opinion metric in design; it is physiological and based on (emotional) brain processing, face and eye movements and things like sweat and heartbeat. Today we are able to capture all those metrics and make sense of them to build winning designs.
3. What UX and ROI metrics do you gather related to measuring emotion?
Desirability is one of the most important pieces of User Experience. It's what people want from a design when they choose to interact with it. Measuring how well you are doing and then seeing how well you are performing from an ROI/ KPI perspective can be very valuable. Marketers typically understand the value here. It's just that dev and design teams are slow to understand how to operationalize this need.
4. What is the impact of your organizations overall UX efforts on positive and negative emotions of different user types? eg. new vs existing customers?
This is usually settled by internal politics (see What Outside-In Design orgs look like) either in a meeting or behind closed doors. This is why it is critical to understand with emotion data the negative and positive emotions that users are having with design elements and look and feel overall.
5. How well does brand desirability (or Net Promoter Score) align with UX desirability, user behavior and the emotional experience?
Many organizations measure success, user feedback or feelings at a brand level. From a UX perspective, that's like asking people what they think of the roof of your house from an airplane, versus sitting on the living room floor with them. High performing UX teams (you know who you are), literally go to consumer homes and sit on their floors to hear their stories and pain points! This makes the alignment of marketing metrics and usability metrics urgent. The bridge is emotion.
Conclusion: Emotion Design is powerful. It helps you express your user needs and desires more fluently, saving you on poor conversion, weak engagement or wasted money on re-designs and updates that should have been part of the core release. Furthermore, measuring emotion can take you to the next level in your UX efforts.
Emotion should be present from the start to the end...In empathy gained from day-in-the-life interviews, in designing user interactions and in measuring and testing designs.
Frank Spillers, Chief Experience Officer