Delightful products

I’ve always enjoyed creating and using products which not only fulfills the needs of the user, but also caters to the desires of the user. A well designed product does what the user expects it to do, but some go beyond to delight the user. While Apple has sprinkled such delightful experiences throughout Mac OS X and iPhone, several web companies have used user-delight as a unique value proposition.

One of my favorite website is www.picnik.com , which never ceases to surprise and delight me. The first time I had met Picnik’s co-founder Jonathan Sposato at a panel discussion, he asserted that what differentiates Picnik from its competitors is a little magic, which is hard to define. Over the next few “Picnik” experiences, I was amazed by that magic and got hooked.

Users experience magic from the very first experience. Upon clicking “Get started” on a simple landing page of Picnik, the user is taken to a “loading” screen, where Picnik delights the user by using metaphors of a real picnic to set the tone. It could have easily chosen to display the text “loading” next to the progress bar, but instead Picnic uses one of the following –

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Painting sky, Laying blanket, Buttering sandwiches, Coloring flowers…… 

The personality of the software reflects the personality of its creators and is often not guided directly by user feedback. For instance, creators of picnik were not told by their users to use “laying blanket” instead of “loading”. Even if they had used the term “loading”, users would have used their software, because it is a useful software. However, users will spread the word and convert into raving fans, only when they see a unique delight factor.

Similarly Amazon has done a terrific job with the classic screensavers in the Kindle. The screensavers are simple and display a portrait of a popular author or a poet. What else could bring more delight to a reader?

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There is no end to the subtleties used by Apple throughout their experiences. Most users of MacBook would know that a small light on the front of a Macbook pulsates, when the computer is on standby/sleep mode. Apple took this one step further by designing their storefronts to mimic the sleeping laptop. The Apple store on University Avenue in Palo Alto (small, but one of my favorites) pulsates after the store closes at 9 PM to indicate that the store is sleeping.Here’s a video.

Does Apple do it at the expense of core functionality?

Did Apple’s customers complain that the store is not sleeping?

How do we add delight to our software? In addition to offering the best utilitarian user experience, the product must appeal to the senses of the users by adding unexpected subtleties throughout the experience.

Let’s make delightful experiences!

Kintan