XIII.4 July + August 2006
Page: 64
Digital Citation

Delight design

Jonathan Arnowitz, Elizabeth Dykstra-Erickson

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Many products delight the user because their designers understand users' needs and design products to deliver on them.

How do you create a delightful product? Users are delighted when a routine action is no longer needed because the technology and design have cooperated to acknowledge and accommodate user behavior and/or needs.

Here is a delightful design: My rental car's windshield-wiper control is easy to find and turn on. Moreover, it senses how much water is on the windshield and adjusts its speed accordingly. Part of the delight is that this is so much better than the car I'm used to driving! And part of it is that it is simply an innovative and useful technical accomplishment. I'm delighted!

Another delightful design: Many years ago, Quicken for Mac remembered my previous entries and entered them as I typed new entries. Predictive text has now become fairly standard. It's not so delightful anymore, but that first experience was awesome. Now most text-processing applications do something similar with predictive text and automatic spell checking.

A personal delight: After some time using and appreciating iTunes, I purchased my first iPod. From the packaging to the nifty device itself, to attaching it to my computer and watching it automatically fill up with my music, the entire experience was seamless and delightful.

And yet another delight: No matter how easy or painful it is to use my variety of digital cameras, when I plug one into my Windows XP machine, Picasa automatically loads and displays them in a friendly environment that makes managing and editing my pictures a charm.

We can relate countless other less glamorous examples: Whether it is delight from a worker who gets their expenses paid back ten times faster with their ERP program, or grateful tax payers using the electronic tax-paying tools at their disposal, good design appreciates the task of the user, and delightful design makes it a joy (or perhaps a relief!) to use.

So let's celebrate our victories—large and small—more vocally, and more frequently. We tend to focus on improving our critiquing skills, concentrating on the flaws we can correct to improve inadequate design. Halls of Shame (here we cringe, having been roundly bashed there) should be balanced with Halls of Fame. The visual design community does it for their best work; let's do it for ours! Send your Design Delights to eic@interactions.acm.org—we'd love to hear from you.—<eic>

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