In many respects emotional design is getting more and more attention. With people like Don Norman on top of it, the audience is getting bigger and the subject is getting more exposure.
The next conference on Design and Emotion (DE2004) organized by the Design & Emotion Society is a serious get-together of professionals and academics presenting interesting new views. Subjects I am personally most interested in are related to the role of emotion in interaction design, which is not getting that much attention yet. An explanation could be that it is harder to measure which emotions are elicited during interactions than is the case with visual stimulations (Van Hout, 2004).
Frank Spillers is one of the presenters at DE2004 with his paper Emotion as a cognitive artifact and the design implications for products that are perceived as pleasurable. Three interesting points concerning interaction can be extracted from his paper:
1) Emotions govern the quality of the interaction with a product in a users environment and relate directly to the appraisal of the user experience. As a user appraises a product, they may develop new concerns that cause them to alter their task exploration, seek or solicit help, or begin another task in order to gain a feeling of confidence before completing the more difficult task.
2) Emotion has a significant impact on how users interpret, explore and appraise a user interface. Artifacts that embody affective properties can be viewed as affective artifacts and therefore captured as valuable design criteria.
3) User expectations are coupled with the emotional state that accompanies or codifies interaction expectations and the emotional signature is reflected in how users perceive pleasure with the product.
(Spillers, 2004, p.8)
In my research on measuring emotions in interactions with an interactive prototype, I found that there was a general underlying emotion which formed a reference point for the answers users gave on the questionnaire. This questionnaire was a semantic differential type of questionnaire with 5 point bi-polar emotion scales, representing 10 pairs of opposite (positive-negative) emotions. Such an underlying emotion was either positive or negative and indicated that, probably, users add up emotions to come up with a final feeling of satisfaction or disappointment. Also Spillers found that an emotional state change propels the user towards a feeling of satisfaction (success in performing a task) or disappointment (failure in performing a task).
Insight in emotional state changes due to interaction with a product can provide vital information on how to design a better user experience. Interactive products are meant even more so than normal products to meet our expectations and provide answers to questions.
Frank Spillers is a senior usability consultant at Experience Dynamics, Portland, Oregon, USA. Also see his personal Blog Demystifying Usability.