On Wednesday Jared Spool spoke at UPABoston about the web today, its history and perhaps its future. One of the more interesting parts was how usability plays into products. In the past the main objective was to overcome frustration. If you overcome frustration and do something useful you can call it usable. But what happens once a product is usable? Are you done? Of course not. You can extend past frustration and actually delight your customers.
But what are the elements of delight? Jared, argued that the elements of delight are fairly well known from the gaming industry. Games have been trying to delight us for years. While this is in part true I think the game analogy is the wrong approach. A typical game will polarize people. The things I may find delightful about Doom and Halo would drive my mom nuts. Similarly the fascination she derives from Solitaire would bore me to death.
In fact the desire to delight through the use of game metaphors has been brilliantly explored by Microsoft's Clippy. Clippy is in many respects a game avatar and in fact does delight a fair percentage of the people who use him. When Clippy was introduced he would tend to delight about half of the people who saw him. The other half couldn't get him off the screen fast enough. By gaming standards apealing to 50% of the market isn't bad but for a user experience you need to do better.
Here is a list of things that I believe 'delight' users beyond basic usability (that comes first of course)
- Design - An attractive and well thought out design.
- Fluid transitions or animations. (as long as they are quick and don't confuse you)
- Basic physics emulation (subtle inertia, stickiness, elasticity).
- Anticipation, Autocorrection or Autocompletion when the computer anticipates your needs correctly (frustration when it chooses incorrectly)
- Appropriate sonification (Basic and subtle sounds to reinforce certain actions)
- Discovery - Finding something quickly that you were looking for, being surprised by something new you didn't expect
- Responsiveness if you're not waiting for your computer you're more likely to be delighted
- Re-use - Finding a new way to use a familiar tool
- Customization and Personalization
- Integration or compatibility (Wow, this thing works with all these other things I already own)
- Value - Wow that's cheap.
Others? What can software makers do to cause delight?