experience designer // public historian


Push vs Pull; Designing for happiness.

Designing an experience. That, instead of designing the features is the currently unfolding trend. We do not want to have the most amazing CD players anymore with the coolest new features. We want to have the most amazing way of experiencing the music while listening. So, as a designer, I point out something I would call ‘pull’ instead of ‘push.’ I notice a shift from sole behavior design (push) towards designing for happiness (pull). Behavior design is short-term: having people click on that ‘last room at booking.com as 100 other people are also looking’ and shallower than the intrinsic motivation of successful experience design. ‘This site is amazing, it actually makes me smile. Let’s go there!’ Successful experience design makes people feel inspired, happy. I foresee a future where experiences with products are more important than the product itself.

Experience design?

Experience design originates from the post-materialistic culture. Societies in sustained periods of material wealth become increasingly interested in values such as personal improvement. They transform into highly individual Experience Societies whose members equate happiness with the acquisition of positive life events. Experiential purchases (i.e., the acquisition of an event to live through, such as a concert, a dinner, a journey) make people more happy than material purchases (i.e., the acquisition of tangible objects, such as clothing, jewellery, etc) of the same value The trend show growing interest in rather the experience created than taking pride in the ownership of the product or technology that created it. Once created, the experience is what is owned - an immaterial, personal story. The product is only of interest as it is identified as being crucial in creating the experience

More than just the product, it is experience that can be sold. The transition from an economy of products and services to one of experience. One could therefore argue to shift attention (and resources) from developing product features to product experiences. From technology-driven innovations to human-driven innovations. Our role as designer is changing and moving towards a more experience-focused approach of design challenges. Products today rarely rely only on physical aspects because consumers demand more. 

It is the difference between the one, and other coffee shop where you love to have your coffee in the morning. Next to the good coffee, it always smells so nice. And you love how the barista smiles and asks you how you've slept. It's true; people get more happy from exactly these little things in life. 

Pulling. Not pushing.

I therefore think that solely designing the behaviour is not enough for a winning product or service anymore. Next to the fact that products are less and less owned - access over ownership - customers want to feel inspired in order to buy or use a product or service. I therefore argue that experience design should have a more leading role when designing. The fact of having an experience with the product before even buying it, will add more value to the product. It is the field where the sales already start. Think about the first time the user comes across the product or service. How does he or she go from just someone that stumbles upon it, to a user? How can this interaction be created in such a way that it provokes positive feelings? Positive feelings will convert the aware user to someone who joins and uses. Furthermore, the goal of designing is to me more than high sales. It is making the world a better place too. So whenever I create, it will be to make the user, the human, happy. Not just trying to push them to buy something. They should feel inspired and drawn towards the product or service. This partly plays a role in behavior design, by making the motivation bigger, the ability easier and giving a trigger. But you are not holistically trying to get your user 'hooked.' I therefore argue that the motivation should be a positive feeling, feeling inspired to use or buy.


So to make one happy and inspired, one should create positive experiences around and with the product or service. While an experience is a complex fabric of feelings, thoughts, and actions, I believe emotions of fulfilment should lead the design. With this I mean, that the emotional value is a starting point in design. These product emotions influence both the decisions to purchase a product and the pleasure of owning and using it after the purchase. Hedonomics is the next step after ergonomics; designing for pleasurability after fulfilling function and usability.


Functionality + Usability + some extra

An amazing experience arises when something extra happens. Something thoughtful. Adding to the toolbox on how to be thoughtful, that has been described here, I think to also design for emotion. What it looks like to me, is for instance like this. 

Slack has made it personal, with a little fun. They have immersed themselves into our worlds. And, they give a small extra experience, a reason why I would come back. Would use this service more often. So how do we make an experience pleasurable?

Be answering the why.

By fulfilling needs, giving a solution to the job to be done. Ask the ‘Why.’ Why does your target group use this product? Why is one cup of coffee different of the others? How is the ‘feel’ different even if the function remains the same? Shape the aesthetics of the interaction. By understanding your user and asking the 'whys' until you uncover useful insights about your customers dreams and desires. These will lead you to the deeper layer of motivation, and emotion. Not just the need; also the goal (in life?) that has to be fulfilled. Next step would be finding the right solution ‘the Why’ and the features to answer it with ‘the What.’ Experience design gives answer to the concerns and problems in order to make the user happy. 

Emotions are unavoidable in the design process. If you would not be taking emotions into account, it would mean you were not designing for human beings. Emotions are vital in our lives as they guide our behaviour, perceptions and feelings and therefore also influence purchase behaviour and shape the user experience with products/ services/etc. Besides, emotions are involuntary, if sincere. Also, they are personal, temporal (in time they might change) and different for different users. So now we know what to make, how do we now know that it will make the user also experience positive emotions while interacting? The personal evaluation? Therefore I turn to Desmet, 2002. 

Integrate Emotions into the design

That different users have different emotions towards the same product, comes from appraisal. This is an unconscious judgement of significance of the product to our concerns. As 95% of our choice makings happens unconscious; there is a big gain here. All emotions are preceded by appraisal. There are four concerns that will determine the nature of the emotion elicited by the appraisal. 1) Attitudes: likes or dislikes. Taste for things. (Disgust / desire.) 2) Goals: want or wish to obtain. The product could satisfy or act as a barrier. 3) Standars: beliefs or norms. Does the product meet personal values? (il)legimate. 4) Knowledge or reference; for which we know is fact. Expectations. Desmet created even a emotion measuring tool for 14 emotions: 7 positive and 7 negative.  

In order to achieve this, product and interaction emotions should be integrated into the conceptual design and evaluation stage of the development cycle. Designers should research the culture, perception and emotion of the target group. With this in mind, they will be able to sketch out product design parameters that will bring out the intended positive feelings. This is a perfect tool to uncover the deeper layers of your users and designing for fulfilling dreams and desires. Positive emotions guaranteed.

Going back to that coffeeshop. Why would I love it, and Alex not at all? Because Alex his goal in life is to be the most healthy guy alive and that does not go together with coffee for him. Same coffeeshop. Different emotions. So dive a little deeper and uncover what makes people smile. Do you want to create a coffeeshop for people like Alex? Give them that daily dose of wheatgrass instead of an espresso.

To conclude, designing to motivate people is no longer the only way to create more interactions with your customer. To increase motivation, you have to figure out the desires they don’t even know they have. Positive experiences when they interact. Pulling your customers, instead of pushing them in a direction. Designing for happiness, hedonomics, is happening. Are you on this train? Please let me know your comments and thoughts, I’ll be happy to hear from you.

stephanie de rooij