20 December 2011
20 December 2011

Designing for delight: delight at the end and not at the start

I recently attended a talk by Giles Colborne on the topic of ‘designing for delight’. In the presentation he suggested that the ‘feeling of delight’ is often preceded by a state of anxiety. It’s not ‘cute details’ that cause delight but the ‘effortless resolution’ of anxiety. This is an interesting observation and a scenario that I can relate to. I have my driving test on Wednesday so I’m in a state of anxiety at the moment but there’s currently about a 35% chance it will end in a state of delight!

One point occurred to me during the presentation: what happens if you have 2 different but almost equally stressful points of anxiety in a single process? And what if you can only fix one of these due to limited time or scope, a lack of resources, or a client simply not buying into the fact that there’s even a problem. This question was raised and the general response was you can’t fix everything at once and you need to pick the one you deem more important. Given the choice, I’d put much more effort into tackling an event(s) at the end of a process rather than the beginning. Of course this point comes with lots of caveats and is dependent on the points in time being considered, the number of events, how anxious you feel about that moment, the potential implementations available. It also goes without saying that if step 1 is so bad that many people don’t even get to experience step 2 then you have gone too far!

People’s perceptions are often affected by where in the chain an event occurs. Even if 2 independent groups experience identical ‘states’ in total – those where the positive state is weighted or distributed more towards the end are almost always rated as more positive than those which occur at the beginning. There are multiple examples in the Psychology literature of this effect being observed – many in the domain of the perception of pain but I’ll not go there.

As a general point at least – I think it should make us stop and consider where we expend our energies during a project and that sometimes it may go against our general design rationale. We may actually consciously choose in some cases to sacrifice creating delight at the beginning of a process on a task so we can make sure to save and use our resources to create enough delight at the end to give the user something to really remember us by.

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