How to translate emotion and psychology into engineering and product design

Thursday, February 2, 2017 Permalink

In a Newsweek article May 18, 1998: Chief Design Officer at Apple, Jony Ive talks about how to translate emotion into design:
“The iMac revolved not around chip speed or market share but squishy questions like
‘How do we want people to feel about it?’
‘What part of our minds should it occupy?’”

When Ive’s team was brainstorming the iMac,
the feelings they wanted to evoke were “intuitive” and “approachable.”
That’s why they gave it a handle on top.
The handle wasn’t for picking the computer up (although it could be used for that). It was a visual cue to the user that they could touch the computer.
The handle gave them “permission” to put their hands on it.
And that made the machine much less intimidating and precious.”

As airy-fairy as that may sound, consider another example from Mark Zuckerberg.

One of the best things Mark Zuckerberg did with Facebook was to focus heavily on photos.
Many people don’t know this but Mark’s major in college was psychology, not computer science.
His understanding of how the greatest interest of a human in a community is other people, gave him an unparalleled advantage.
This insight was baked into Facebook’s product development in ways that most users can’t recognize.

Facebook made it easy to see photos of friends and acquaintances.
They made it easy to find and add people to your network.
The more people you added, the more interest you had in the platform.

This seems like common sense but most social networks are struggling with engagement.
Their problem is that they simply don’t understand how to translate our psychology into engineering. 

Understanding human behavior will help you build better products.
I have a unique advantage because I’ve studied Computer Science, Design and Direct Response Marketing.
I have also been a copywriter, door to door salesman and teacher.
After all those years, I noticed that great marketing and advertising have deep roots in influence and persuasion.

What many people call intuitive design is really just common sense.
It’s caring about your customer enough to make your products perfect for him.

Ever wondered why some door handles are so difficult to use?
Or have you seen products that would be easier to hold if they had a bigger handle?
Those are examples of instances where psychology and emotion were not factored into the engineering.

Sometimes the psychology is as a result of the zeitgeist.
Snapchat and it’s filters are a classic example.
Older people don’t get it but the concept of “disappearing photos” is pretty cool to young people.
The co-founders of Snapchat understood this and baked it into their engineering.

Think of emotion and human behavior first before building your wire-frames and sketches.
My advice to write down a timeline of activity from start to finish.
What will my customer do first, second, third and fourth.

When I decided to build an app for, these questions came to mind:
What will she like to do after downloading your app?
Where is the first place he should go when he lands on your homepage?

Better still, study people using your product so you see where they look and what they reach for.
No one should have to ask for directions when using your product.

Where will the customer look when they want to search your website?(hint:most people look to the top left hand corner)
Can you reduce the number actions necessary to complete a task?
Is it easy to share your product with someone else?
What tenets of human behavior and emotion can be expressed or magnified by using your product?

Do you see how you can implement this to your product development?

Book recommendation:

The Design Of Everyday Things:I particularly like this one because of the everyday examples

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