Delighting Your Users - How to Design Joyful User Experience into Websites and Applications

We've all visited a website or used an app that's made us grin. Whether we were delighted with a bit of clever humor or captivated by a perfectly executed jQuery animation, it's clear that more and more designers are looking to add joyful experiences to their web and mobile applications.

flipboard

flipboard

But adding joy isn't just about making your users smile - apps that properly delight users are more engaging and more likely to be recommended than those that don't. Delightful experiences can also become part of your brand, helping users associate your company with positive experiences.

Ben Yoskovitz put it well in a blog post about delighting users:

When you successfully delight users it’s magical. They love you, you love them, birds chirp beautiful music and the clouds literally part in the sky... The rewards are immense. Loyal, rabid fans tweet shamelessly about how incredible you are, how valuable your web application is, and how successful your startup will be. Awesome stuff."

Let's take a look at how we can effectively create joyful user experiences:

Easter Eggs

Easter eggs are hidden (or not so hidden) elements within the website or app that users "find" and are surprised and delighted by. A great example is the "Google Tilt" effect on mobile devices. Another example is MailChimp's chimp mascot popping in to tell you a joke or share a youtube clip. These easter eggs are charming and unexpected, which helps them engage users. They can also add a distinct human touch - users understand that a real human went out of their way to add something delightful to the site or app.

Though easter eggs may be delightful and engaging, it's important that they don't hinder the user experience. Easter eggs are best used in small doses. Over used easter eggs quickly lose their novelty and may even become annoying.

Gamification

Gamification is exactly what it sounds like: adding game mechanics to non-game related things such as websites or applications. Just to be clear, this does not mean that you turn your site into a video game. We all engage in game mechanics virtually every day, in all different areas of our lives. Game mechanics appear on the web in many forms. Foursquare and Gowalla make good use of game mechanics with their badge and mayorship systems. Some applications have features rooted in game mechanics that you probably don't even realize. The Twitter follower count is a game mechanic, as is Digg's voting system.

foursquare

foursquare

I believe the simplest (and arguably the most effective) game mechanic to implement is the mechanic of collection.  Any time your users stand to collect something (badges, followers, likes...) you are employing a powerful game mechanic.  As humans, we instinctively like to collect things. Martin Lindström put it best in his amazing book "Buyology - Truth and Lies About Why We Buy:

"As a society bred from hunters and gatherers, we're all hardwired to accumulate, though these days, collecting has reached extreme levels."

Lindström explains that collecting makes us feel more safe and secure and even in more control of our lives. Apps with collection mechanics also create powerful loss aversion in users. If you have collected a bunch of "badges" for example, you are far less likely switch to a competitor because on the current site you have collected something with "perceived value". Personally, I love the Gowalla app, the ux and visual design, the vastly superior feature set... but I use Foursquare because of my "badges" and "mayorships", and because I'm afraid of missing check-in deals. Perceived Value + Loss Aversion = Highly Engaged Users.

What can users collect in your app that will give them that sense of collection? What will make them fear the feeling of losing their collection?

Delightful Interface Elements and Flawless User Experience.

An obvious way to delight users is to make your UI and UX perfect (easy, right?). A great jQuery animation here or there can delight your users by making them feel like a god. Flipboard is a great example of this in action. The experience of using the app is so delightful that I find I consume far more content just because I love tapping and swiping through the interface.

Well designed, intuitive apps are more engaging and make the user feel in control. This is a good thing. If your app isn't intuitive, users will be frustrated and the delight disappears. A colleague recently told me about his frustration with Mailchimp. To him, the app is unintuitive and frustrating. Because of this, no amount of funny MailChimp Easter eggs could help salvage his experience with the app into a delightful one. It's important to remember the basics before branching out into more advanced delight tactics.