Designing for Delight

Jeremy Duimstra

There are many ways to create delight. An element of surprise is a good one; a moment of unexpected interactivity; a novel use of animation; a personalized user experience are others. The key to delighting the user is to tap into their emotion. The aim is to add a level of detail that not only catches their attention, it infuses the experience with a moment of joy,  laughter, maybe  just a momentary smile.

While creating delight is often fun in and of itself, one can imagine the increase in brand affinity designing in this way creates. Some estimates claim that each of us is subjected to 5,000 marketing messages per day. In the midst of all that, wouldn’t we all like a little splash of fun? It’s one of those things that transforms an app, a website, a digital experience from good but forgettable to exceptional and memorable.

Here is a video of one of my favorite digital delights. Instead of the same old boring loading/refresh spinner, Yelp gives us rocket ship riding bird. Random? Yes. Delightful? Definitely.

Yelp offers a good example of a small but amusing detail. Surprise can also be a bigger part of a design, as in The Epic Life Magazine MJD built for Vail Resorts. The layout includes elements of surprise; text is set in a skinny centered column to increase readability; large format images break out of that grid in a surprising way, covering the entire horizontal space of the browser. We added a zoom feature on mouse-over that brings a slight but powerful moment of surprise to the user. Slideshows are handled in an innovative way as well. Rolling over them fires an animation that shifts the first image slightly right to left, showing the user that there is more content hiding there, and they can easily access it with a click to the right.

Adding to the layout choices we made, we engineered a personalization engine for the site. As users find articles they are interested in, a tagging engine remembers what they are viewing. Each time the user comes back to the home page, articles similar to their interests  bubble to the top. The site basically recreates itself for every single person that visits. In lieu  of surprising a user, this magic happens in the background and isn’t overtly noticeable. What we found, however, was an exponentially increasing number of engagements with the site on each subsequent visit.

Interactivity is also key to delighting users. Oakley’s Conquering Kona microsite campaign included an interactive map that led users through an audio and photographic essay of Ironman champion athletes telling stories of grueling Ironman events. We added delight by granting  the user power to interact with the site in whatever way they chose: They could take a linear path through the route of the Ironman, from the starting line to the finish line, or they could skip to parts of the race that most interest them. Interacting with the map, audio and photos created an immersive digital experience that delivers a true feeling of what it’s like to be an Ironman.

Ultimately,  digital creatives work hard to create beautiful layouts that meet usability standards, are easy to navigate and give users the information they desire. What we’ve found at MJD is a deeper desire to be delighted. When measuring project metrics, one of the most important checkboxes should be ‘user smiled’.

Lean User Testing Methods : Test Before You Build


User testing is a vital part of UX Design, and in some cases overlooked due to the belief it’s too expensive or it will take too much time. You can sketch, conceptualize, research and design all you want but at the end of the day, the proof is in the testing. How your intended audience interacts with your product, what motivates them to return and engage and how they perceive it is the pure definition of UX. With so many affordable testing resources now available, it can be done quickly and with minimal costs. Test early, get it out there and get feedback.

Guerilla testing is a popular topic in the debate of how to conduct user testing. This model speaks of testing constantly and using friends, co-workers or even random test subjects at a local coffee shop. As this approach may work in instance such as organizing content or concept testing, we find that the best results of in-person or remote testing come from people who are actually going to be interested in using your product. Stay focused on your core demographic and test to that audience. Testing random subjects that will never use or engage in your product may not always produce the most effective result in the long run.

Every project has different goals, needs and budgets; therefore some projects may require special types of testing. Here we explore the concept of Lean User Testing, coupled with Lean UX principles:

1. Define the Product Goals

The first step to conduct with your client is to define the product goals. This is key for a results driven process. This may seem like a no-brainer but a strong concept with clearly defined requirements can keep your team focused, cut down on debate time and keep everyone energized. Typically there are three types of product goals: creating an addiction/habit, meeting a certain business structure or owning an experience.

2. Tree Testing & Card Sorting

Tree Testing allows you to see how well users will interact with and find elements in a website or application’s hierarchy. It reveals whether the information architecture is easy to understand and can help with naming conventions that make sense to the user. This is extremely beneficial if the client insists on creating clever or unique navigational titles. Within tree testing, the user is given questions and looks for items in established categories, similar to actual browsing behavior. This can dramatically improve the navigation or taxonomy. Card sorting allows users to organize items into groups and then categorize and label the groups.

Optimal Workshop is a great platform to test both tree testing & card sorting.

3. In Person Focus Groups

Testing concepts, content, experience and design may be the most effective solution in-person, but it also can be the most time consuming and expensive route to go. To actually watch someone use your product and see their immediate emotional reactions can be something that you miss from remote user testing. To produce the best results, the interviewer must not be biased to your product or the user have any background information before the testing session. This way no party is being swayed to certain opinions as they use your product for the first time and can honestly react. For smaller companies that cannot seek a 3rd party testing vendor, Craigslist can be a good option to round up your specific demographic to participate in a user testing group. This can get tedious on your own however and can be very time consuming. The most effective methods are those that allow you watch and interview real users while they interact with your product or service. Focus groups allow you to extensively see a group of users interacting with each other to discuss an idea or a concept. This can lead to new levels of inspiration as you will gain more insight from the ideas of the group.

4. Remote Focus Groups

With the advancement of online testing resources, this can prove to be the most cost and time effective solution for start-ups or smaller agencies on tight budgets. Remote testing allows you to conduct testing from the comfort of your own desk, by computer or telephone. This can also be implemented throughout the whole process of development, from beginning to end.

User Testing is a great option as it records a video showing the user as they use your site/app and captures their thoughts and touchpoint as they interact with it. You pick the core target audience and assign the user a task to perform that can be run on desktop, tablet or mobile device. You can hear the tone in their voice as you watch the ease or struggle while they navigate. The only downside to this may be that the users thought process might not seem as clear as it would in-person.

5. Google Analytics & A/B Testing

A great way to keep on testing, refining and making your product better is to gather analytics and re-asses user pain points. Then create A/B versions to test against each other and gather new analytics on how to improve your product. To put your design to the test you’ll need to subject it to actual website traffic by randomly assigning visitors one of two design options (A & B) To determine these differences you need to test each design. Tracking how customers are using the interface is detrimental to a product’s ongoing success. You can get metrics that track Call to Action clicks, high exit paths and generate funnels to see how long customers engage.

Another option with even more power than Google A/B Testing is Optimizely.

There are currently a great number of online & in person testing facilities and sites that offer many  other options that we have not touched upon. As UX strives to simplify, testing can be done simply as long as the right goals and structure are setup initially and a clear goal is set. If the testing becomes too complex and drawn out then the product has become too complex.

The Strategy Behind Delight

Jeremy Duimstra

Technology, user experience and interface design are converging to transform the digital world around us. People using technology have come to expect to be delighted when they spend their precious time in front of a screen. At MJD, we’ve found four essential ingredients that go into making a user experience pleasurable: Personalization; Being In Context; Intuitive; and Minimalism.

No one wants to be a “user”. We are all unique individuals with different experiences and expectations of the technology we choose to use. One of the first attempts at personalizing our digital experiences brought the creation of user profiles. Create a profile and be greeted by name the next time you login – neat! The profiles that we’ve all created have now been augmented by big data. Every social network “like”, every purchase, and every search builds the digital information around each of us, so the experience feels like a real, even human-like interaction. While there are privacy concerns at play here, we are seeing evidence that people will give some of this information away in exchange for highly personalized, and thus useful, experiences.

Take retail subscriptions for example. Big data and artificial intelligence algorithms can determine exactly when my wife and I are two diapers away from a minor household catastrophe. When the delivery of a new case of diapers arrives at our door the very day that we’re about to run out, I am not only delighted, I have become a raving fan of that service. The e-commerce site seems to know me. That’s true personalization.

The second theme we’re seeing in the design of digital products is the delivery of content that is in context with your current environment. The sensors in our devices know a great deal about us. An alarm can go off in the morning, accompanied by music that fits the mood of our calendar that day. As we get in the car for the morning commute, our mapping app can inform us that traffic is heavy and recommend an alternate route. While driving by our favorite coffee shop, our loyalty point app can let us know that we have a free cuppa Joe beckoning. All of these prompts are done in context of the place and time in which we’re currently present.

Having an intuitive interface isn’t just a no-brainer; it should actually require no brain. The technology needed to build even relatively small digital products is incredible. Thankfully, we have decades of hardware and software design to build upon for each new thing that we produce. But that layering also creates exponentially complex systems. Those systems need to be hidden from the user interface. The best interfaces are the most simple and the most intuitive, while accessing the robust technology under the hood. Which leads us to our final, crucial ingredient of a pleasurable digital experience – minimalism.

In our view, pleasure isn’t derived from interfacing with a digital contraption of some kind but, rather, by enhancing a human experience. It’s important to strip the clutter from someone’s life, not just their user interface. The best products simply make things easier; they minimize the noise and chaos of everyday life. The hardest thing to do as digital designers is to collapse a feature set. We fall into the same trap as our clients by attempting to create a product that does all things for all people. Truly delightful products do a minimal number of things extremely well.

Ultimately, pleasure – the pleasure in experiences, things, gadgets and even people — will influence how much and even how often we choose to interact with them. This delight is the driving force that pushes us to fulfill our most basic needs. By incorporating these four essential ingredients into their digital products, companies will enhance the pleasure of their users’ experiences and meet those needs at the core level.