A challenging idea I have come across in web design forums and blogs recently is whether we are to design to the emotions or to simply create “Magic.”
A common tactic in web design is to present the user with little but the call to action. This goes well beyond minimalism and helping the most ADD of users’ focus. This “action item” could be a purchase, a subscription, or any transaction of information. To sweeten the pot, when limiting distractions is not enough, designers often strive to call upon the user’s emotions, instilling ideas like, “You cannot go without this!” “This is the best thing ever!” or “Others depend on your support.” Easy-to-point-out drawbacks in this approach are: possibly being manipulative, and the fact that this tactic is completely at the mercy of the user’s emotions in the moment. The very compelling argument I have come across detesting this is that our one goal as designers of any experience is to create something that is simply a joy to use–no emotions necessary. Make the transaction pleasant and move on. In this respect, no experience could ever be painted as manipulative, and no experience would be dependent on a state of mind. If my product/event/video/app/[INSERT CREATION HERE] is a joy to experience, then all that matters after the transaction is the enjoyment the user walks away with. Another way to say this is, are you trying to create something that is beautiful, or are you creating simply to create?
To be clear I am not against designing for emotion, but I know we can all think of a time when someone was trying too hard–trying to play all the cards and pull all the emotional strings. It just feels… Preachy. All that I am trying to promote here is that designing for emotion is not enough. We should seek to create a beautiful experience from start to finish. That experience may be composed of emotions, but the emotions themselves should not dictate the experience.
Do you seek to go beyond fulfilling the requirements you are given and strive to create something that excites people? Is there anything meant to surprise users? Generally these things are clever or intuitive. Look for ways you are leading your users down a path, and when they are on the verge of making a decision, complete their thoughts for them.
With minimal lines of code, I can guide the user in a very fluid-like experience to the content they desire on a page. I could have easily forced their browser window there and focused them instantly on the content they are looking for, but this way I can build a fluid experience by helping the user stay coherent in their environment. I hope that to some that are used to a more rugged web experience, this navigation is just simply… Magic.