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Athena Herrmann

Athena Herrmann

Executive Vice President

The Importance Of Surprise & Delight In UX Design

Is It Possible to Create a Personality for your Product Interface?

While in North Vancouver visiting a client, I noticed something that’s sole purpose is to make pedestrians walking up (or down) the steep hill of Lonsdale Avenue happy.

Scattered here and there along the boulevard are carved animals, a sort of an amalgamation of various mystery figures.

As my colleagues and I walked, we debated about what kind of animal they were and what they were for. Is it a bunny? A polar bear? Final consensus: A cow! (Cowbearnny?)

As to their purpose, there were many theories. “Are they to stop skateboarders?” “Are they boot scrapers?”  “Do they keep dogs from peeing on doorways?”

My guess is that they are there for the sole purpose of making the experience of walking that stretch of street better. Of creating a positive opinion of the area. For making people happy.

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This theory applies to many things and can be very effective in the world of UX design. I’m sure you can think of many examples of awful, purely utilitarian interactions on the web. Unfortunately, there are less examples of remarkable experiences…

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In the book “Designing for Emotion”, Aarron Walter writes about how to design for humans by creating designs that engage people on an emotional level. He states that to do this, it’s critical to bond with your audience by designing a personality that the interface will embody.

Of course, a key way to do this is by understanding the persona of the users who are interacting with your product. But your design can have a persona too.

When creating a new design for a product or a website, the visual design team at Akendi conducts a creative workshop with key stakeholders. Asking the right questions in this information gathering session helps us to personify the product we are designing.

We regularly ask questions like “If your product walked into a bar, what would it look like? How would it act?” to characterize its personality.

The Role of Curiosity

How does this lead to surprise and delight for your customers and users?

The key to is to pique curiosity. To engage people directly by grabbing their attention at the right moment with an approach that fits with them. To make them stop and notice. To start a conversation.

Thinking back to the little cowbearnnies decorating Lonsdale Avenue, that moment of discovery spurs an opportunity to create further engagement with those interacting with it.

Having surprise and delight moments flow neutrally from your brand and voice ensures authenticity.

These moments also create differentiation from your competitors and give you a competitive advantage. They create a connection that people remember and have the opportunity to create a long-term connection with your brand.

Was there a time when you experienced surprise and delight around a user experience? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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Athena Herrmann

Athena Herrmann

Executive Vice President

Athena believes that function and beauty are not mutually exclusive. A principled and creative leader whose biggest passion is finding solutions to client problems, Athena strives to build teams that intelligently integrate UX processes and best practices with product development. Her long and winding journey from the United States to Canada has given her a unique combination of strategic design skills and broad industry experience.


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About Akendi

Akendi is a human experience design firm, leveraging equal parts experience research and creative design excellence. We provide strategic insights and analysis about customer and user behaviour and combine this knowledge with inspired design. The results enable organizations to improve effectiveness, engage users and provide remarkable customer experiences to their audiences.