I have a weird obsession with elevator buttons. Some are just really fun to press! I’ve started making a mental catalog of why I find such giddy delight in such a mundane task—the weight of the button, the texture, the material, the temperature, how it fits the curve of my finger, the distance it presses in, whether it lights up. There are dozens of tiny details that contribute to the feeling of satisfaction and enjoyment that results from this commonplace action.
The same is absolutely true with the websites and applications we build. Delighting the user may not be our primary goal, but it’s something we should strive for in everything we do. Sites and apps that delight the user are more engaging and more likely to be shared. They become synonymous with your brand, so users associate your company with happy thoughts. Elements of surprise and delight help humanize your brand and make it more relatable.
Delighting users is an elusive and slippery slope—go too far, and you’re cheesy and annoying; not far enough and you appear like you just don’t get it. Here are a few things to think about as you try to build delightful details into your website or app.
These little hidden or surprising gems have a single purpose for existence—to delight the user. It might be a visual or content-driven revelation. It’s the MailChimp mascot popping out with a random quip (or their chimp “Star Wars” login screen on May 4). It’s how Freshbooks rewards your time entry for the day with a little “You go, girl” or “Time to take a break, eh?” message. It’s the dinosaur next to the login button of Wufoo with a tooltip that reads “RARRR!” It’s how Chocoaltapp turns all fonts to Comic Sans when your free trial expires. Clever. Funny. A bit edgy. Delightful! The trick here is to not go overboard—a little delight goes a long way.
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There’s something innately delightful about collecting badges, ranking on leaderboards or comparing scores with your friends. Foursquare does a great job making going places you usually go more enjoyable. Gamification adds a level of excitement and engages users to return. It also taps into our natural competitive natures. Many sites effectively use hidden gamification principles—things like Twitter’s trending topics, the leaderboard on Tumblr or Amazon’s personal recommendations—to further engage users with (apparent) customization.
Good UI and UX Elements
At its core a simple, intuitive interface is actually delightful. There is satisfaction that comes with completing a task without getting confused or encountering an error. Now if you can add to that a little sexy JQuery animation or inventive layout, all the better (e.g., Pinterest)! There is also an increasing trend toward skeuomorphism (a ten-cent word that means a design element that isn’t essential to the object it’s applied to, but was essential to the original material of the object). A good example is iBook’s wood grain 3D bookshelf. These design elements have no purpose but to cultivate a sense of familiarity and delight the user.
Transform a standard login screen call to action button from “Go” to “Get in there!” (like Flickr’s old login screen) and you have instant delight. From your register screens to email confirmations to shopping cart prompts, there are dozens of opportunities to have fun with the language to instill personality (and ultimately delight) on your site or app. Of course, the language has to fit into the voice of your brand and makes sense. But look at every opportunity that you communicate with your users as a chance to engage and delight them with your words.
A delighted user is one who will return. And they’ll bring their friends.
Here are few sites that have delighted me recently:
Bookworm.com – I have always loved the Soap.com family of sites and watching them grow over the years. This newest addition is my fave thanks to the gently swinging logo letters and subtle toy animations.
Dominos pizza tracker – Part of the company’s recent rebranding effort to be more hip and irreverent the tracker gives you real-time updates on where your pizza is in the baking process and who is doing what.
Mint.com – It’s blend of simple, straightforward interface and smooth transition animations is just the right equation for a delightful experience.