Judging from the articles I’m seeing on usability lately, I think it’s safe to say most people finally understand it has a lot more to do than just what color your active links are. Designers are understanding how people use things and how they find them. Everyday products are designed with usage in mind, and how cool it is to use them. Some products make you feel good because they grab you somehow, and everytime you use them, you have some kind of an emotional reaction whenever you do.

I hate orange in my kitchen. It doesn’t match anything. So, how is it that I went beserk at Kohl’s, on a family shopping spree in search of a new mashed potato masher thingy, when I found a set of Rachael Ray cookware on sale? I needed one product, and walked out of the store, with my husband and kids happy and giggly because mom is so freaking excited and happy, with a huge box of orange pots and pans!

Everytime I make something, I reach for the cubboard that is now the official Rachael Ray cupboard crammed with her products. The bright orange non-stick, cool looking and comfortable handles, variety of cookware make me feel powerful in the kitchen. Her cookbooks are on the counters, not tucked away with the Moosehead Cookbook or Betty Crocker ones, which once were in view to show off how smart I am.

A set of orange pots makes me want to make something really good. I didn’t want orange in my kitchen. How in the hell did Rachael Ray’s marketers know I would buckle?

Can you do this with your websites?

Most websites that I test don’t reach out and hug anybody. They don’t make you feel good. They treat you as a user, rather than a guest that has come by to visit.

Many don’t have a single picture of how people use their product, or if they do, they choose the wrong types that send the wrong messages (often stereotypical.) Car ads do this a lot. I never go car shopping wearing heels, diamonds and an evening gown and I never met a woman yet who has. I don’t think we’re supposed to buy cars. I think we are supposed to massage their side view mirrors, or something.

I enjoyed this article by Frank Spillers called What is Emotion Design? (A practical definition)

Emotion design is when you understand the marketing and business value of positioning a product around the emotional-based elements of product interaction and then empower your marketers, designers and developers to properly research and design for the user experience.

Sometimes I review sites and can honestly tell the site owner I felt an emotional response to the site. This is rare, however. Some sites use images in creative and smart ways to convey how their product will enhance an environment, or make you feel if you use it. Hotel sites are starting to figure this out, but they have a ways to go. A hotel room rotating view with a bed and desk is a boring hotel room shot.

A big King size bed with big fat Disney character pillows, Pirates of the Caribbean sheets, and a family cozied up together in their pj’s playing with little toys they picked up from the nearby Disney attractions…something like this helps you experience the room.

There’s room for discovery and experimentation with emotional design as it relates to web design. Frank writes,

The recognition that a sterile focus on function is not enough anymore in usability (emotion needs to be addressed as well).

Usability is not just about how a site looks anymore. We’re interested in creating a response from you that’s so persuasive and so purely reactive that you will buy just about anything. Like orange colored pots.

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Kim Krause Berg’s long background in web design, SEO and usability includes software application functional and user interface testing, accessibility, information architecture and persuasive design. She shared her passion for Usability and SEO through her site and private consulting at Cre8pc for 17 years. Kim founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998. In the fall of 2012 she sold her forums to Internet Marketing Ninjas and retired from private consulting to join their Executive Management team where she continues her work in usability testing, customer experience and conversions design.

My Online Course: Web Site Usability 101


American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)

Information Architecture Institute

Usability Professionals Association (UPA)