partial recall

a blog of ideas, links, and musings.

In Defense of Delight


Kano Model

I enjoy reading provocative articles. Political media pundits make a good living by being provocative. When you’re provocative, you are remembered. It’s much better to be polarizing than to be lukewarm about a subject. Get people to either wholeheartedly agree with you or rustle people’s feathers. Well, my feathers were rustled a bit when I read @johnpavlus‘, “Delightful interaction design must die.”

The author’s premise is that as designers, we should focus on “thoughtful design” because, after all, delight comes from the eye of the beholder, right? Perhaps John doesn’t remember a mere few years ago when the iPhone was introduced. We all take for granted that all smart phones now have touch screens, but when the first mobile phone came out with a touch screen that introduced entirely new interactions, that was delightful to a majority of people! Did this delight influence sales? Sure. Did it go against the premise of “thoughtful design”? No.

Delight does not always need to be present in a design, but sometimes it is a business advantage. If we look at the Kano Model, one of defined dimensions is the “attractive” or “excitement” quality. What is it? Well think back to the iPhone. When it was first introduced and touch screens were new, that brought about excitement, or delight. But was it counter to thoughtful design? No. In fact, one could argue that some interactions might be completed faster with touch screen. But remember, delight over a product or feature changes over time. Are any of us excited about touch screens now that it is a ubiquitous feature? No. But was it a competitive advantage? Sure.

Some argue that the experience is the product, and in many ways I agree. If we continue with our analysis of Kano, we see that excitement (delight) impacts the success of a product by:

  • Excitement has the greatest influence on how satisfied a customer will be
  • These reqs are neither explicitly expressed nor expected by the customer
  • Fulfilling these reqs leads to more than proportional satisfaction
  • If not met, there is no feeling of dissatisfaction (not expected)

I agree with John that we should not prioritize delight over other considerations, but there are times when it can be a critical differentiator. Delight is in the eye of the beholder, and for some, delight is met just by the speed of which a task can be accomplished. However, if comparing two products and both have similar features, what influences you to purchase one product over another?

In close, thoughtful interaction designers must be careful to understand the goals of any product or feature. Those in product management are charged with making sure a product has the right balance of meeting basic requirements, performance requirements, and excitement requirements. But if we do not focus on delight (excitement) at all, then where will we find innovation?