Tech Tuesday – Emotional factors in web applications

20 September 2016 | Mircea Razvan Marcu | About a 4 minute read
Tags: Development, mobile design, Mobile Development, web design, web development, website

Having emotional factors in an application implies taking in consideration multiple non-functional requirements like accessibility, efficiency, effectiveness, usability but also platform compatibility.

First steps

Probably the first thing that has to be done before starting to build an application is identifying the target users and understanding their expectations. Very often this step is, not necessarily ignored, but treated superficially and this is a major risk. I’ve experimented with this kind of approach in the past, where we started to build a very ambitious application, but the target users changed every 3 months. This meant that the application didn’t have a correct vision from the beginning, the code had to be changed very often in order to follow the new niche expectations, and in the end the project died.

When designing the concept of the product some things to be considered are the message that wants to be communicated, how it should be addressed, the type of the content that is used and how this will fit in the future design.

The Design

Creating the design plays a big role in adding emotional factors to the application. In this case, it is not enough to be an ‘artist’, you also need to know the web standards, how the design will be implemented, how it will look in the browser, how it will look on different platforms and how will the user interact with it. A good design should not be just a static image. Every element a user will interact with should contain layers for different states (for example, for a button it should be taken into account at least the normal, hover, focus and active states). Following a color palette, using the right font, following a grid system and a nice set of icons makes the application more consistent and user friendly.

In the past, there were lots of Flash websites, which were very animated, but most of the times were slow, had no SEO, and were very annoying because of the “Install Flash” popup. On the other side, there where simple websites, created with tables and no transparent images because there were not supported by all the browsers. In this case, the web designers had to make lots of compromises. Fortunately new browsers appearead, and the older ones evolve, so now you can create animated, fast, search engine optimized and with a very small list of compromises.

The Fun factor

One emotional factor is the “Fun factor”. Humans love humor, and by adding “ice breaking elements” in the application, it makes the user feels comfortable. These elements send clear and powerful messages and are usually represented by pictures or short pieces of text which have the role of capturing the user’s attention. Another thing to keep in mind is that humor is a delicate matter and is very hard to generalize, so an element won’t make all the people smile, but it shouldn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable.

The WOW! factor

Implementing the design can be the part where the “WOW! factor” can be added to the application. These doesn’t mean that you need to transform the application into a circus production but on the the other side it shouldn’t be boring. And the best way to make your application more animated is, of course, to use animations. Using small and simple animations, which are also consistent across the app can be engaging and interesting for the user. When the user is not thinking about an animation as being one, but as a normal behavior of an element, then it means that it is used properly. Animations can be used to subtly describe the intention of elements in an application, or explain the consequence of an action the user has made. The “WOW! Factor” can also be represented by large scale animations which can be the way you navigate between the pages, or behaviors of elements that fill a significant portion of the screen. Here is a good speech about how to add ‘juiciness’ to your application, and probably this is what the “WOW! factor” is about: “maximum output from minimum input”.




In conclusion…

Applications are created and used by humans and human beings are characterized, among other things, by emotions. Taking emotions into account in establishing requirements and their importance in software profession is obvious. All these emotional factors of an application should mean normality, should not shock the user, and should make the user feel comfortable. An application should grab and guide the user’s attention to find what they are looking for, influence their perception, allow them to have fun, and finally, build a relationship with the application or brand.

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