Emotion is fundamental to being human. We can temper our emotions, become friends with them, but we can never escape them. And why would we want to? Emotions and feelings are the delight (and despair) of being human, they are the fuel for creativity in art, science, technology and design. Emotion is what we hope to manipulate as designers: to ease frustration, to inspire delight, or to provoke concern.
During the process of design, we can look purely at the mechanics of interaction to create various flows and patterns, but considering the emotional motivations for and impacts of these flows must always be folded back into the design process. We need to be continually empathetic, not just during research and usability testing phases, but during the creation phase as well, to remain conscious of the human at the other end of the machine. Emotion, in fact, should be a key deciding factor when choosing one design pattern over another, for in the end, who are we designing for?
It can be easy to forget about the end user when we are designing an experience, and it is tools such as personas and user stories that help us keep reality in mind. Adam Connor, an IxD colleague, uses a film technique called beat sheets to record emotional states on user flows, so that they are top of mind when the design team is working. These small notations make huge contributions amongst the sea of words and wireframes, where the user can be lost.
Giles Colborne introduced more intriguing ideas around emotional design at IxD12. Emotion generally motivates people to action, and designers must understand emotional consequences to design better experiences.
If you’ve ever shouted at a computer, you’ll know that they can be infuriating colleagues. Since Asimov’s iRobot we’ve recognised that human-computer relationships are beset by disfunction. Inconsistency and lack of ‘emotional intelligence’ are computers’ personality disorders. We have an opportunity to create context-aware interfaces with emotional intelligence. – Giles Colborne
Giles spoke about creating adaptive interfaces that sense a person’s emotional state and then adapt its feedback accordingly. He used psychology frameworks to speak about computer interfaces like they were equal players on the team, which increasingly, they are. It’s a fascinating idea, to personify an interface to behave more human, but we must question what kind of human this would be. I don’t think I would want an interface that was a tyrant or emotionally abusive! I am intrigued by using personality types to craft interface experiences, to create an interface persona along with user personas. I think we get part way there with brand attributes and personalities, but I would be interested to see an interface deeply modeled on the Myers-Briggs personality types, in terms of functionality and adaptive qualities. A potential thesis topic, I think.