Love in the times of digital products

This is the first of a 3-part series on how to make our products more human, so that other humans can fall in love with them.

Do you remember that feeling of falling in love? The weak knees, fluttering butterflies, the falling deeper, over time, blissfully unaware of everything else around you?

Well, what made you fall in love with them in the first place? When you see that person for the first time, hear their voice, spend more time interacting with them — what are those qualities that make you fall for them?

I tried asking this question to people around me, and received many responses. Their answers ranged from the candid, stemming from real life experiences, to the sappy clichés emerging from books and rom-coms.

But on the whole, the responses received were surprisingly similar!

Ranging from the superficial to something deeper, these are a few of the common traits that make people fall in love with other people:

  • Beauty
  • Sense of humour
  • How trustworthy they are
  • How helpful they are
  • How they make you feel (about yourself)

People are spending more and more time everyday with apps, devices, websites and other digital products. As designers and creators of these products, we have a responsibility to ensure that interaction with them feels easy and as natural as possible! A glimmer of personality, a likeable trait, some less-than-formal interactions, etc. greatly enhance the user experience of these products, making them not just usable, but delightful!

Once we start seeing digital products in a more ‘human’ light, it is not difficult to map why some products are more loveable than the others!

(For the purpose of this article, I’m referring to a digital product as an ‘app’ — more for simplicity than anything else!)

1. Beauty

A visually pleasing app, that is a delight to the eyes, always makes a great first impression. In addition, a positive personality and is just as important as good looks!

Apps like Soundcloud do a great job of surfacing content and images, which contribute to the visual appeal of the app and make them look instantly engaging!
Zeplin and an Android Fitness App

Think beautifully designed landing pages, positive messaging, and feel-good greetings. Beauty affects humans at a subconscious level — and it can be a good starting point to lead up to other great qualities that your app has!

2. Helpfulness

Though a lot depends on the nature and functionality of the app (Does it serve the user? Is it a companion? Is it a tool?), a clear and helpful interface, and a provision for help when the user needs it, is the key.

Autocompletes, Clear guided task UI, and helpful features like space saving (L-R: Google Keep, Cam Scanner, Google Photos)

It goes without saying that the app should do its core job, and do it well. Think of uncluttered UIs with clear functionality. Think of intuitive features, that are based on unmet user requirements and solid research. Think of smaller time-savers like autocomplete, that take away mundane tasks from the user and free up their time for more fulfilling work. There are so many little ways that an app can help the user, holding their hand, every step of the way.

Now, that can be the start to a pretty solid romance, if you ask me!

3. Trust

Does the app seem trustworthy? Does it respond well to user action? Does it instil confidence in them by giving appropriate feedback, protecting their data, and standing by them when something goes wrong?

Excel indicates that the document is ‘Saved’, a subtle indicator of safety. Office provides some great document recovery and version control

It’s very important for users to feel that the app is ‘listening’ to them, and that they are in control. Think of feedback UI, fluid responses and micro-interactions that might help the app achieve this. Besides this, features like auto-save, recovery, version control, help the user feel more on-top-of-things, and help them build a trusted relationship with the app.

4. A Sense of Humour

Does the app take itself too seriously? Can it create a positive vibe through lighthearted messaging, all the while doing its job well? Does it make you feel like you’re interacting with a human, not a machine?

PS: It’s equally important to not go overboard with the humour, as well!

5. How the app makes you feel

People feel good around someone if that person makes them feel good about themselves. It’s convoluted, but true. From the perspective of a digital product, it means that the app must make you feel in control, feel successful, and productive. It should make you feel like you’re doing well.

Duolingo does a great job of reward-based learning and positive re-enforcement. And Medium surpassed itself with this subtle Upgrade panel! I was almost flattered.

In the next article in this series, I’ll be discussing how to make apps more helpful and trustworthy, as I think these two qualities are extremely important and far surpass the others!

* The examples provided here are ones I’ve found delightful, as I’ve come across them in my day-to-day usage. Do share more examples of apps or websites that you find loveable, and why! I’d love to hear of them :)
As a writer on the virtual web, it’s nice to know that someone’s listening. If you’re reading this, do leave your thoughts in the comments below.