Designing physical spaces and designing software/web/mobile products are not two different. You are solving a problem by creating something of utility, but you want to create an experience around that utility.
Let’s explore some of the questions architects ask and how they can relate to product design.
1. What do you want people to do here?
Architects start with the purpose. What is the purpose of this space? Who will be using it? When will they be using it? Do you want people to linger or quickly pass through? Do you want groups to form? Depending on the answer, the architect will then craft a space so it fulfills that purpose.
For example, if the purpose of the space was to create an area where people can escape the busy, hectic life on NYC in the middle of NYC, then perhaps the architect will look to build the space in such a way there is seating so people can stop and relax, and there could be greenery and sound-absorbing material so it feels like you are not in the city.
Similarly, who is your product for? Is it for somebody who needs to do something quick and get out, or is it a product for people who are bored and require something (or many things) to keep their mind occupied? In a way, this question is very similar to the main idea behind the Jobs to Be Done Framework.
2. What do you want them to feel?
Amazing architects separate themselves from subpar architects by focusing on thinking and defining what emotion they want to cause people in their spaces to feel. Does the architect want people to feel curious, amazement, relaxed, and/or happy? Answering this question will lead them to go beyond just fulfilling the purpose of the space and create an experience that people can connect to and want to connect to.
Let’s go back to our Midtown NYC space for people to escape the city. If the architect wants the users to feel relaxed and give the space a feeling of escapism, he might use trees, flowers and other things to create a space where users feel they are in a different world, a relaxed world where they can sit for 10 minutes in peace, or have their lunch during a hectic day before going back to the office.
Similarly, how do you want your users to feel when they use your product? Do you want them to feel ecstatic, accomplished, successful, happy, and/or relieved? Based on the feelings you want to elicit out of your users, you would then know how to design the minutia of your product that build such an experience. For example, if you have a tax-filing service and you wanted your users to feel successful, accomplished and ecstatic for doing such a mundane task, you can could employ positive reinforcement copy that makes them feel like that like having copy that shouts “Yes, your taxes have been successfully file! Go you!” after completion.
Having positive reinforcement copy in your tax-filing product is not enough. You have to look at aspect of your product that your users interact with to help bring out these emotions you want to bring out.
Answering this “feeling” question will help you differentiate yourself from your competition because you are now designing for feeling, which leads to creating an emotion-based experience that people can connect to.
We are now entering the realm of emotional design. Let’s think of ourselves as architects and design every aspect of our product so that it not only fulfills a purpose, but by going deeper, we are creating an emotional experience that people can connect to and they long for.
Welcome to the realm of emotional design!