Monthly Archives: August 2005

Design with and for emotion

After reading The Design of Everyday Things, I knew that I would be reading Donald Norman’s follow-up, Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. My read did not disappoint either, and I have a number of principles to apply to a brand new project just getting underway.

In my semi-regular form, here is my list of takeaways:

  • Training is essential to operate under high stress where creativity is an unaffordable luxury. So the more involved my software is in helping my user accomplish an immediate or critical task, the more attractive, intuitive, trustworthy, enjoyable and efficient my software must be. It should enhance focus while not producing anxiety. “Attractive things do work better–their attractiveness produces positive emotions, causing mental processes to be more creative, more tolerant of minor difficulties.”
  • If my software makes it easy to quickly find pertinent content and metadata, then these assets will be continue to be valued. My software should look at this holistically (i.e. tackle the problem and not shift it from one place in a workflow to another). For example, the author gave print photography (e.g. shoeboxes) of pictures and digital photography (e.g. still need to have prints in hand) as examples of technologies that can do a better job of valuing the precious resource known as time: “One of the most precious resources of the modern household is time, and the effort to take care of all those wonderful photographs defeats their value…Digital cameras change the emphasis, but not the principle.”
  • “The real challenge to product design is ‘understanding end-user unmet and unarticulated needs.'”
  • “Learn once; remember forever.” This is possible with good understanding from a proper conceptual model (i.e. a good system image).
  • “Physical objects have weight, texture, and surface.” Software can lead to a sort of sensory deprivation caused by a lack of stimulating interaction (i.e. missing “tangability”)–abstraction instead of emotion.
  • “To the practitioner of human-centered design, serving customers means relieving them of frustration, of confusion, of a sense of helplessness. Make them feel in control and empowered.” So, how does the typical content management software frustrate the average user, etc.? What functions can offer the greatest value and therefore best address non-use?
  • “Artistic integrity, a cohesive thematic approach and deep substance seldom come from committees. The best designs come from following a cohesive theme throughout, with a clear vision and focus. Usually, such [visceral or reflective, but not behavioral] designs are driven by the vision of one person.”
  • “If you want a successful product, test and revise. If you want a great product, one that can change the world, let it be driven by someone with a clear vision.”
  • “Noise is a vast source of emotional stress. Unwanted, unpleasant sounds produce anxiety, elicit negative emotional states, and thereby reduce the effectiveness of us all.”
  • “Humans are predisposed to anthropomorphize, to project human emotions and beliefs into anything.”
  • Given that cooperation (e.g. between an end user and his software) relies on trust and that trust has to be earned, it’s important to provide consistent and responsive user experience continually during use.
  • My software itself is communicating with its users, apart from whatever content and/or metadata is involved. Users of my software are in communication with others, especially where content-centric processes and collaborative experiences are concerned. Without communication, loneliness sets in and the isolation that ensues quickly erodes individual and group productivity. Therefore, to provide highly successful software, I need to not only facilitate information sharing but also enable emotional connecting.
  • There is a difference between being connected in an empowering sense and connected in a distracted sense. The connections my software provides need to be real and satisfying and not shallow or overwhelming. For example, the necessary context to succeed at a content-centric task must be always on but necessarily always fully visible. An recent example of this for me is my new Apple Mighty Mouse with its side button click-squeeze feature to trigger Exposé or its “nipple” click feature to trigger Dashboard. Both Exposé and Dashboard can themselves be contextually useful applications.

It will be important to keep in mind that there are three levels of the human cognitive and emotional system as follows:

  • Visceral – design my software for appearance and initial reactions
  • Behavioral – design my software for pleasure and effectiveness of use (i.e. know how people will use my software and pass initial usage–does it fulfill needs?)
  • Reflective – design my software for self-image, memories and personal satisfaction (i.e. how can my software earn long-term use ad admiration?)

Update 12/1/2008: For more of my book reviews and to see what else is in my book library (i.e. just the business-related or software-related non-fiction therein), please visit my Books page.

Skype installation UE

First of all, I think that Skype is brilliant. Create a (more pervasive every day) platform to give voice away for free (i.e. VoIP) and at the same to build an ecosystem for value-add services. (Hmmm, sounds a lot like Google Desktop 2’s Sidebar, except that content in its multiple forms is the underlying medium and not voice.)

Just by coincidence I experienced a simple but highly usable flow that Skype provides during its installation.

Yesterday I leveraged Skype’s Help | Check for Update function to see if my version was current; it was not. So I downloaded, installed it at home and copied the installer to my USB drive for work. This morning I ran the installer and instead of having the software installed straightaway, I was asked if I’d like to upgrade to a newer version. How brilliant is that? After saying yes, I was automatically taken to the literally just-released installer, which commenced its download and subsequent run-to-install. And, of course, the installation performed a pain-free in-place upgrade from my previous version.

This extra step of checking (and not assuming or ignoring) for a new version of software to be installed is a great idea. I can see putting this into use especially during early, rapid iteration development. It’s one way to keep the team as current as possible with the evolving feature set, quality, performance, etc.

Thanks for the example, Skype!

Pandora rocks!

Once again the connective power of the web comes through…this time I was able to reconnect with a colleague from the first days of the Web Development Kit (WDK) development effort at Documentum (now EMC), Tom Conrad, who is now CTO at Pandora Media Inc. (Blogging about Barcamp was the connection this time.) In the process of exchanging emails, Tom invited me to try out his new service. I have. It rocks!

One of my passions is listening to music, so Pandora caught my attention even before my invitation arrived. Tom described Pandora to me as follows:

“Pandora is a ‘music discovery service’ designed to help you find and enjoy music that you’ll love. It works like this: you give us the name of an artist or song and we instantly create a ‘station’ that plays songs that share musical characteristics with the artist/song you entered. From there you can fine-tune the station to your tastes by giving us feedback on the individual tracks we play. You can make up to 100 unique stations that play all kinds of music – Pop, Rock, Jazz, Electronica, Hip Hop, old, new, big names, and small acts — over 300,000 songs from more than 10,000 artists. Pandora is entirely web-based; you won’t need to install any software to start listening.

“Pandora is built on top of the Music Genome Project, the most ambitious, fine-grained analysis of music ever undertaken. If you’re interested in all the details, you can read more about the project on the site.”

I recall from my sabbatical how a service like Rhapsody changed my listening habits. However, Pandora respects my current habits and draws me into other artists through them rather than present me with a blank canvas like Rhapsody did. In this sense, Pandora has a more social appeal for me at least–kinda like the difference between and plain vanilla browser bookmarks.

The basis for this service also appeals to me in that it doesn’t appear to be driven by hype or by popularity. Instead, the objective analyses applied focus on pure discovery for the enjoyment of music as opposed to being concerned with other market forces that often fail to deliver the goods.

…will definitely keep diving into this innovative service. Nice job, Tom!

P.S. Four80East is definitely worth adding to the database–the only station that Pandora couldn’t create for me at present. :-)

Real architecture

I’m really not a software architect. I just design train routes for my son.

Real architecture

But, as I’m reading in Emotional Design, laying tracks is making up for the sensory deprivation I suffer from interacting with most software. :-) (More on that read later…)