Monday, 21 November 2016

Designing for emotional response

Design can elicit many different emotions. Many designers aim for surprise and delight, but those are not the only emotions you might want to elicit.

If you are designing a site or an app for a charity or a campaign group, you might want to elicit compassion and a willingness to act - whether that is volunteering or donating. You might even want to elicit anger.

Ages ago, the BBC published a series on user experience, and one of the things they talked about was BERTs - Bipolar Emotional Response Tests - which had a chart with a series of contrasted emotions (happy versus sad, angry versus calm, and so on) where testers were asked to respond to a design by marking on the chart how it made them feel. Their responses were then averaged out to provide an emotional profile of the website.

A wheel of emotions

This interview with Sherine Kazam offers a wheel of emotions and how they relate to each other (identified by Robert Plutchik in 1980). It's a more nuanced model, though I am not convinced that some of the emotions named are more intense versions of the same thing.

Identifying people's response to a website or app on a wheel of emotions could be useful as part of evaluating user experience.

If you are trying to elicit a particular response from people, then it's helpful to be able to identify whether or not you have succeeded.


Consider, which is mostly green. Green conveys the idea of growth, which seems apt for a microfinance site. The clean and professional-looking design is also reassuring, in that if you're going to trust them with your money, you want to know that it's going to be worthwhile.

Compare that with, which has a similarly subtle and clean-looking design, but with a hint of red, suggesting dynamism and change and action.

Have a look at the use of colour and design on other websites. How do they make you feel?