Of emotions, big picture and designing for mobile
There are several creative-driven products that bring together diverse disciplines but none so unique perhaps, as mobile apps. I say this because here is a format which is going to be used by the most personal medium ever — the mobile phone. We wake up with our phones, we fall asleep with them, maybe you’re looking at one right now…hence when your product, which is an app, leads to interaction, things start to get very personal and intimate, and naturally emotions come into play.
Emotions and apps, you ask? This is something that I have reiterated to many product owners who come with a request to build an app. In my view, building an app is not just a matter of wireframes and coding, there is much more in the offing.
This time, its emotional
At the very core of our existence lie emotions. We need to be conscious about the power of emotions to drive behavior, and our behaviors are always a result of our emotional state of mind. Just as we are irritable when hungry, we tend to be more accommodating when we are in a positive state of mind. When we admire someone or something (a happy emotional experience), we tend to trust and ‘accept’ them more. Hence the admiration gives rise to acceptance. It extremely important to understand this emotional relationship while releasing a new product and reaching out to early adopters who in-turn will advocate admiration which leads to acceptance of the mass user majority. Uber is a beautiful example on how it used this to efficiently reach out to its user base in India.
At Robosoft’s Design Labs, our firm belief is that everything has emotions built in and through the objects or products we create we transfer these emotions, positive or negative, consciously or unconsciously to the user. We need to be extremely cognizant about our ability to identify with emotions. Our Emotional Quotient does just that, it helps define the core composition of emotions that thing or product is made up off. For example a hunting knife has two basic emotions — the blade embodies aggression while the handle comfort. And once this is understood, design decisions can be objective and subjective. In this case, the emotions of aggression and comfort make clear filters to validate any new features or suggested design improvisations.
A poorly designed interface is likely to have a low ‘Emotional Quotient’ and hence evokes poor empathy. Marketers believe consumers always make a decision based on what the emotional brain decides. Professor Baba Shiv of Stanford University summed it up nicely when he said ‘the rational brain is only good at rationalizing what the emotional brain has already decided’. So it is natural that the most interactive-friendly product in the most personal device ever is driven by emotions. When we build apps for the mobile ecosystem we need to keep in mind that the emotional quotient will influence everything from — form to function, fonts to colour, marketing strategies to business.
Big picture, big impact
‘Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe’ said Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately, with most business projects, spending time ‘sharpening the axe’ is a luxury. Result: iterations and waste of time, money and effort. But the underlying reason behind it is that we all tend to get caught up in the details before seeing the big picture. When you are up-close, things are not what they seem.
Getting the big picture in apps is all about answering 3 questions: why are we creating this, how is it going to really work for our users and what is in it for us. Answering the why is usually extremely difficult; it is about ‘intent’ and once you truly articulate your intentions you will see the big picture and then go on to build a connected universe rather than isolated experiences. At DesignNext, a recent workshop we conducted to help product companies and designers craft great mobile experiences, it was heartening to see a positive response to the need to pause and see the big picture before we delve into details.
So…what’s the intent?
Intent is the underlying cause of creation, giving purpose to form and function — think of design as a medium to render that intent. If the intent is clear, focused and expressed well, it will have a positively huge impact on design…and in-turn have a cascading effect on everything. ‘Design is rendering intent’ — is a profound statement to ponder on. Notice a well design object or product and you can trace it back to a strong and well-articulated intent. Apple is a great example of strength in intent.
Concept, design and engineering are intertwined — they feed off one another to add value that helps creates innovations. So the entire sequence of design, engineering and consumer experience is impacted by the first step — defining the intent. Take for example, the intent behind two knives — butter and hunting knives are obviously different. One cannot land up in a jungle with a butter knife and on the breakfast table with a hunting knife …they are designed for two very different purposes, for different environments — their design is expressed in their unique form, and the function is obvious.
Whether it is a menu or an icon, colour or form factor, features versus user benefit, a business decision or a design one, intent will play an important role, be sure your Intent is yours and not someone else’s!
So the three pillars of crafting mobile apps for the connected universe will be the big picture (which gives clarity and focus), intent (decoding the real purpose) and rendering intent by understanding emotion.