Offering a “compelling user experience” is now the Holy Grail when it comes to making successful digital products and services. Indeed, an endless supply of books, blogs and tweets testifies to its importance from a wide range of perspectives—from ethnography to app development to business ROI.
But what, exactly, is a “compelling experience”? And how do you know if your product or service provides it?
Simply put, compelling user experiences elicit strongly positive emotions. And the best user experiences evoke these emotions during product use or service delivery as well as after the fact. In other words, we have positive feelings about these experiences as both means and ends.
The means. Products and services succeed when they help users get into a positive state of “flow” and actively engage with the solution. At the risk of going Zen, flow is that feeling of focus and enjoyment where time slips away and you become one with the activity. Video game developers are extremely effective at harnessing this feeling, and the term “gamification” really means leveraging the principles of flow to achieve the same effect.
Not coincidentally, three key conditions necessary for a state of flow are fundamental to the design of a successful game or “gamified” user interface:
1. A clear goal–you know what you can do, and how to do it.
2. Immediate feedback–crucial for for learning and developing confidence.
3. A sense of user control. Things that are simple, intuitive and pleasant to do are easier to remember, contributing to a sense of control. As user skill increases, the level of challenge can increase to further reinforce this sense.
And ends. A digital product or service can elicit positive emotion by delivering not just the actual objective benefit, but also the subjective feeling associated with the broader benefit—typically after the action is carried out. For example, a security system not only keeps intruders out of your home, but makes you feel confident in the knowledge that you have made your family and belongings secure.
Emotion plays a large factor in all aspects of the consumer experience—from expressing needs, through forming initial impressions and making purchase decisions to using and recommending solutions. This framework offers a helpful reminder to product designers and marketers alike to keep both the means and ends in mind.