Design for delight

If you take a moment to think about the brands and applications that truly engage us, one thing they often have in common is that they include small moments that make you smile. They have gone the extra mile to add playful details that surprise and delight. Take, for example, innocent smoothies. Look on the bottom of one of their cartons and you will see a light-hearted message. Alternatively, phone their helpline, or bananaphone as they call it, and try not to have your day brightened by the quirky greeting you will receive.

Innocent Smoothies

These fun details that brands and applications introduce aren’t mere gimmicks. This extra attention to detail helps create an engaging brand or application that you remember and want to share.

A very well known example of this in the world of technology/applications are Google Doodles. These are re-imaginings of the Google logo that constitutes the main graphical element on its search home page, based around some significant event associated with that particular day. They do not affect the functionality of the search page, but can be a worryingly engaging distraction.

However, for all that delight attributes can significantly boost satisfaction, over time they can become a basic, expected attribute, as explained in the Kano model. Google Doodles are once again a good example of this. Originally they happened only very occasionally, so their overhead to Google was very minimal, but nowadays we expect to see one almost every day — the mere presence of a Doodle is no longer something to mention to others — and there is a whole team dedicated to producing them. The lesson here is that if you want to introduce moments of delight into your application (and you should!), be sure to really consider what you are doing.

For example, introducing elements inspired by Google Doodles into an iOS app, in particular, could be quite awkward and labour-intensive. The native controls are inflexible, thereby providing little scope for designers to get creative without significant development effort (even though these moments of delight shouldn’t alter the utility of the app). Furthermore, the moment there is development effort involved, there is an opportunity for bugs to creep in, resulting in a need for more comprehensive testing. Very quickly, the overhead of introducing a moment of delight like this becomes too large and the idea is scrapped.

By using the beautify framework to style your app the real pain points of that overhead disappear. A designer can change the appearance of your app without any development effort. Using the approach of statically including your beautify theme with a build, getting the resulting changes out there would still require a release build and an app update through the AppStore. However, with a very small one-off effort, it is straightforward to take advantage of beautify’s ability to re-theme your app at run-time in order to have timely control over what your users see without the need for app updates.

Take, for example, our HOMR app. It lets you find properties to buy and/or rent. It is a fairly simple, dry concept; probably not something anyone is going to get particularly excited about. By applying seasonal themes to the app without impacting the functionality of the app, it quickly becomes more fun, and this attention to detail leaves the impression on the user that we really do care.

Default Theme
Winter Theme
Halloween Theme
Easter Theme (ouch, my eyes!)

Note: HOMR is an internal app we use for testing (based off the native iOSPropertyCrossbuild). It is not and will never be publicly available.

It took barely any time at all to knock up these themes, and with the help of beautify I was able to add timely elements of delight to the app without the need for any rebuilds or other developer involvement.

I challenge you all to add moments of delight to your apps, and to do so in ways that do not add a significant on-going overhead.

Regards, Graham O.