Using the Power of Emotion for Web Design

Proudly pilfered from Smashingmagazine effectively developing an experience. Storytelling offers a way for the team to really understand what they are building and the audience that they are creating it for. Stories allow for the most complex of ideas to be effectively conveyed to a variety of people. This designed product/experience can then offer meaning and emotion for its users. The professionals that are currently using the power of narrative in their projects are doing it in vastly different ways.

Emotional Design. Through his research, Norman found that design affects how people experience products, which happens at three different levels, and translates into three types of design:

  • Visceral Design This design is from a subconscious and biologically pre-wired programmed level of thinking. We might automatically dislike certain things (spiders, rotten smells, etc.) and automatically like others ("attractive" people, symmetrical objects, etc). This is our initial reaction to the appearance.
  • Behavioral Design This is how the product/application functions, the look and feel, the usability, our total experience with using the product/application.
  • Reflective Design This is how it makes us feel after the initial impact and interacting with the product/application, where we associate products with our broader life experience and associate meaning and value to them.

Processing in Better User Experience With Storytelling - Part One

There is a lot more to emotion than can be covered here, but understanding those basic levels of processing gives us some insight into why storytelling is so powerful. Consider how the levels of thinking play off each other in an amusement park: People pay to be scared. At the Visceral Level we have a fear of heights and danger. At the Reflective Level we trust that it is safe to go on the ride, and we seek that emotionally charged rush and sense of accomplishment (overcoming that fear of heights) after the ride is finished. Knowing that emotion is so vital to how we think makes it more important to create not just a functional and usable experience, but to seek and make a meaningful connection.

Bring Teams Together

User experience professionals typically have to work with people from many different backgrounds. Depending on the type of experience, it might require the effort of everyone from an engineer to a user interface designer. Also, in many cases, the approach in creating websites or applications is to consider the technology, or limitations of that technology, first. Finally, to make matters more complex, larger teams tend be split with concerns regarding their domain. For example, the marketing person is going to focus on their directives and motivations based on their initiatives. This is not always in the end-user's best interest and results in a diluted and poor experience.

Ux Chart in Better User Experience With Storytelling - Part One
The Disciplines of User Experience by Dan Saffer

The infographic above depicts the many different fields that make up the disciplines of user experience. The user experience team selected to create an iPhone application for the masses would be quite different from one that is developing a medical device used by doctors. As described earlier, the individuals that have been involved in crafting stories have been successful in tapping into a way of communicating that has been around for thousands of years. Utilizing storytelling, user experience teams can also inject emotion and value into the end product for users.

Cindy Chastain refers to it as an Experience Theme. She says this theme is "the core value of the experience" being created. Christian Saylor refers to it as finding the Lead Character. Without this user-centered goal, he states, we are just "designing for the sake of designing."

Theme Elements in Better User Experience With Storytelling - Part One

By centering around a specific theme, or character, the uncoordinated elements of an experience all have a clear goal and purpose. With storytelling, a diverse team creating a website or application can collectively link together the tangible elements and create something that is a meaningful experience and is more than just bits and bytes.

Your ability to adhere to a process is dependent on many things, like timeline, budget, and business goals.

In reality, it's not always possible to do everything as specifically outlined. Storytelling is a way to connect teams quickly, and gain insight and understanding. The experiences we create communicate with those elements through the design, content, and user interaction. Storytellers have successfully been communicating for much longer than websites have been around — which makes it a valuable tool from the business side of design.

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