Infuse Emotion Into Experience Design

The Web is becoming an increasingly important channel for companies, yet online experiences leave a lot to be desired. Our research shows that most sites have poor usability and they don’t reinforce key brand attributes. That’s why I worked with Ron Rogowski (the primary author) on a research report that created a concept called Emotional Experience Design, which we define as:

Creating interactions that engage users by catering to their emotional needs.

Emotional Experience Design is quite different from today’s functional design:

Forrester Research graphic about Emotional Experience Design

To apply Emotional Experience Design, firms must:

  1. Address customers’ real goals. People may come to a Web site to get service or buy a product, but that’s typically not the beginning or culmination of their journey. The mother of a newborn with stomach problems isn’t going to a site for information about medication; she’s looking for a way to bring comfort to her baby — and maybe get a little relief for herself. If firms want to engage customers, their sites must cater to these deeper customer needs..
  2. Develop a coherent personality. Web sites can feel sterile — devoid of a brand’s human characteristics, which are often apparent in other channels. But firms need their online experiences to do even more than just reinforce their brands; the experiences should enrich them. How? By developing a coherent, consistent personality that customers can easily recognize throughout all interactions.
  3. Engage a mix of senses. Over reliance on text and imagery makes many sites indistinguishable from competitors. Interestingly, most people can’t remember the content of Intel’s commercials, but they can easily imitate the Intel sound.While Web experiences don’t allow users to taste or smell objects, they can and absolutely should engage users’ senses of sight, hearing, and even touch.

The bottom line: It’s time to make emotional connections online.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

12 Responses to Infuse Emotion Into Experience Design

  1. The conclusions could be succinctly summed up by saying “accommodate your customers’ needs in their preferred method, time frame, and budget.” Absolutely true that emotional connections should be made online. Don’t neglect other connections (phone, personal visits, etc.).

    Those connections, when they provide value to customers (whether online or not) form the basis for relationships. And those relationships form the basis for loyal customers.

  2. Pingback: Bruce Temkin: Infuse Emotion Into Experience Design as Customer Experience Matters « Fredzimny's Blog

  3. Colin Shaw says:


    You will be aware we have been advocating and working in the space of Emotional design in our three books for a number of years. Therefore we can absolutely support this work. Emotions applies to the web as well as any other interaction with Customers.

    Our last book “The DNA of Customer Experience: How Emotions drive value”, reveal the emotions that drive value for companies. This work was independently vetted by London Business School. Therefore I would suggest that people need to ask the question “What emotions are you trying to evoke”. Clearly ones that drive value would be beneficial. We know that 50% of an experiences is about emotion.

    Finally, have a great phrase. “The web is an emotional flat place”. I think this is very true and they have experience in emotional connection on the web as well.

    Bets regards

    Colin Shaw
    Founder, Beyond Philosophy

  4. Bruce Temkin says:

    Andrew and Colin: Thanks for sharing your thoughts and links!

  5. marc mcneill says:

    This is great. We need to move beyond the one-dimensional view of a user with singular needs to be fulfilled and consider human beings who, because of some contextual trigger, come to your product with values and desires, as well an (often ill-defined) goal. I’ve tried to illustrate this here –

    But that is only the start, the bigger challenge is to drag organisations out their silo’d thinking. The difficulty comes when each channel has independent targets. Rather than understanding a customer journey may start on the web, touch the call centre and convert in a store, they are all competing for the sale rather than working together to make it.


  6. Mei Lin Fung says:

    Right on!

    To do this kind of thing we need service leadership for the 21st century that uses the tools of social media and open source to connect with customers/partners in more authentic and engaging ways

    There was an article in the NY Times comparing Oprah Winfrey to other media moguls and noticing that she was clearly her own person who knew who she was and when to say no.

    New models of leadership for the 21st century are emerging – yet we can also look back at Abraham Lincoln who is a pretty darn good role model for service leadership… and his words ring very true today…

    “the dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present”

    Service by the people, with the people, for the people –

    the title of my blogpost about Lincoln as a service leader for the ages Wed Nov 4, 2009 at

    Human beings unite!

    Let’s reclaim our right to be unique people and not an anonymous transaction on the path to someone’s bonus.

  7. marcovanh says:

    Bruce, this is great. I am very enthusiastic to see some genuine action and support in advocating the importance of taking the emotional experience into account. The statement “Firms can get started by focusing their research on uncovering users’ emotional needs, capturing emotional feedback in testing, and charting a course to Experience-Based Differentiation (EBD)” seems spot on, as we have created 4 basic steps towards what we like to call meaningful experiences.

    Emotions are key in building relationships with people, with consumers, with employees. Behaviour and satisfaction are driven by emotion. My company SusaGroup helps companies to measure and understand emotions to turn products and services into meaningful experiences.

    We have developed an approach which we use to support you to create meaningful experiences based on emotions:

    1. Disclose – measure and create an emotional benchmark
    2. Understand – analyse and uncover emotional drivers
    3. Envision – formulate targets and an emotional fingerprint
    4. Conceptualise – bridging the emotion gap and design phase

    Our tools to disclose the emotional experience are widely used and are based on the notion that people are very well capable of expressing themselves through self-report. The validated emotion characters that we use are the foundation of the non-verbal way of measuring emotions.

    I could go on and on about all this, but perhaps it is handier to read about it on, or on my personal weblog that has raised awareness about the emotional experience of products, brands and services since 2004:

    I would be very happy to come into contact with each and everyone of you that is interested in learning more on this topic.

  8. Bruce Temkin says:

    Hi gang: I’ve been a bit busy, so I am just getting around to responding to some comments on the blog — and there are some excellent ones on this post.

    Marc: I completely agree. And I really liked the post you offered (and your blog has a very cool name: “Dancing Mango”).

    Mei Lin: You are a fireplug! Wow, bringing Oprah Winfrey and Abraham Lincoln into the discussion is terrific. Let me join in and say (because it sounds so great): Service by the people, with the people, for the people… human beings unite! I felt inspired by just writing that.

    Marcovanh: Thanks for sharing your approach. I’ll check out your company.

  9. Pingback: 11월 UX 관련 참고자료 « yoonsuk

  10. Great read. This concept is directly applicable to a large client project we have in the works, so it was a nice set of insightful guidelines that I was able to pass on to our team. Keep up the good work.

  11. Bruce, great article. So true that what customers are looking for, and what sites are providing, are often two very different things!

    Many site / business owners are still going for the “BUY NOW!!!” hard sell, with little consideration of the emotional needs you highlight… to their detriment.

    And @Mei Lin, really clever post… thanks for sharing, I’ve just visited and bookmarked your site too!

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