The Social-Emotional Interaction of Interface Design

The Social-Emotional Interaction of Interface Design

Traditionally, interface designers have viewed their work primarily as the development of tools to facilitate the performance of information tasks. Similarly, users have believed that they respond to interactive interfaces as they would to mere machines, setting aside any social or emotional concerns.

However, the technology is changing, and the theory that human-computer interaction is social and emotional is compelling more designers to consider newer viewpoints.

Online social networks have helped our real world social networks transcend time and space, making it easy (and seemingly essential) to share the triumphs, tragedies, and trite moments of life. No longer do you simply tell your best friend that you’ve broken up with your boyfriend. It feels natural to many people to tell hundreds of Twitter followers, and Facebook friends. As users let their humanity show online, frontiers of communication are opening for web designers.

The Functional, Reliable, Usable and Pleasurable

In 1943, Maslow wrote a paper titled ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’ in which he proposed his now famous hierarchy.

The basic idea here that you really need to grasp to understand Maslow’s logic is that, the lower the tier, the more basic the need. Another way to say it is that the lower level needs must be met (to a certain degree) before a person will move up the hierarchy.

By mapping Maslow’s insights into human psychology over to interface design concepts, we can get a better understanding of the way our audience works

The interfaces we design must first be functional – they need to solve a problem for us.

Next, they need to be reliable , no fail trumpets please.

Our interfaces need to be usable , easy to learn, easy to use, and easy to remember.

The piece we often overlook is the pleasure. Personality is the platform for emotion. It’s the framework we use to crack jokes, empathize, and connect with other humans. If we can bake emotion into the interfaces we design, we reap big benefits. But again, before your website or product can create an emotional relationship with the user it must get the basics right. The emotional relationship, the delight, is what you layer on top of this base usability and technical competency.

Emotion in Design

Interface designers now deftly combine usability and emotional design to create a pleasurable user experience. An interesting example given by Aarron Walter in his book ‘Designing for Emotion

“Babies create bonds with their parents through an interesting feedback loop. When they cry their parents respond by soothing them, which releases calming neurotransmitters in their brains. As this cycle repeats, the baby begins to trust that their parents will respond when they need them.

A similar feedback loop happens in interface design. Positive emotional stimuli can build a sense of trust and engagement with your users. People will forgive your site or application’s shortcomings, follow your lead, and sing your praises if you reward them with positive emotion.”

Showing personality in your website, or brand can be a very powerful way for your audience to identify and empathize with you. People want to connect with real people and too often we forget that businesses are just collections of people.