Delightful Apps

published on 2022-09-08
4 min read
2 min videos
Table of Contents
    Delightful Apps

Delightful Apps

The Stagnate State of Things

When you open a pen, its cap clicks. When you turn on a fan, you see the blades start to spin into full motion, you can feel the airflow increasing. You can sense and hear the vibration of the fan's engine.

Using our senses, we can feel and understand the things we use because they're grounded in reality.

Elements on the web are dead silent. When you interact, click, or drag them, the elements suddenly disappear or change form. Things move as if they're weightless with no regard to momentum or physics.

The web feels dead, stagnate, a lifeless cardboard imitation of our physical world. Breaking the laws of reality.

The web needs to stop acting like humans are a pair of eyeballs and a couple of pointers that want to scroll and click things all day. The web needs to use more of our senses. The web needs to feel alive; the web needs to feel like a fan. Tangible, understandable, real.

Unmuting The Web

It feels like someone clicked the mute button on the web decades ago. The only sound you hear is when you play a video or audio. Other than that, all you hear is silence.

Maybe that was for the better since in the olden days there wasn't much regard for the viewer's preference 😅. So they blasted sounds in website intros, button clicks, and auto-played videos.

So we had to stop it. But maybe deafening the web was too harsh of a judgment.

Maybe adding back some sound design with care to users' preferences would give some life back to the web.

And sounds don't have to be just "Bells and whistles" (pun intended 👀). Sound can also be functional.

They can be celebratory.
They can indicate completion.
They can indicate loading/processing.
They can notify.
They can Indicate error.

These sounds invoke emotions in the user which makes the experience more enriching.

Motionful Web

Motion indicates weight. It tells us where things are, where they're coming from, and where they're headed. It gives context so we can create spatial awareness to understand our surroundings.

Motion also gives emotion and character, even to the most lifeless of things.

"Luxo" by Pixar - 1986

Remove motion, and you'll remove our sense of reality.

Remove motion, and you'll remove character.

Pleading The Case For Delight

Why invest time into making anything delightful when it just works? Why put the effort when the user can just get the job done? And delight isn't necessarily a business metric (KPI) we track or has a direct impact on revenue, right?

Yes, you are quite right. There is no need for delight.

But there could be a want.

The same as a vanilla ice cream that you can eat by itself, it's the spray of sprinkles that gives it that extra glee.

You could think about the amount of money, storage, and logistics you'll save by just serving the ice cream sprink-less. But to the customer, that little gesture of adding sprinkles meant something. It meant they were not dealing with a machine that drops 200ml of frozen flavored dairy cream into a plastic cup. It meant they were dealing with a human, a human who made this thing with care and love, a human who wanted you to enjoy the labor of their work and gave you something a little extra to see that wide smile on that pretty face of yours.

Delight does not necessarily make you the most efficient, frugal, or metric-oriented. What it does is make you memorable, make you humane, and even if you're not necessarily the "best" out there, at least you could be the most loved.

Being data-driven is the death of art.

In The Business of Delight

Two users on Figjam waving their hand-shaped cursor then joining them together for a high-five

Figjam High Five

A gray heart button that, when clicked, turns red and has confetti popping out of it

Twitter Like button animation

A task being completed in-app in Asana, after completion it turns blueish then collapses, then a blue unicorn flies in from the bottom left of the screen flies out to the top right of the screen.

Asana Task complete animation

Animations of the like, heart, laugh, amazed, sad, and angry buttons of Facebook

Facebook Reactions

In Duolingo, after passing a 365 streak, a green bird named Duo jumps and spins until turned into a firey pheonix

Duolingo Streak animation
Arc Browser intro

These companies spent time, effort, and money to make what many businesses see as not a top priority or even “necessary”, yet they did it. And the users love them for it.

Those little delighters become the catalyst for people sharing your creation. It makes people stick even when on paper. There could be a better product. They feel connected with your product and even with the people behind it.

Sprinkles, not too much, not too little

While sprinkles makes the ice cream a little more special, adding too much might make it a bit too “special” 😅  and adding just a few looks a bit cheap or not even worth the bother 🤷‍♂️.

When adding sprinkles, don't add too much where it overpowers the ice cream, and not too little where it feels off. Just add enough and maybe a little bit more 😉.

Why Doesn’t Delight Dribble Past Pens and Snippets

We come across mocks of animations, clever UX, and innovative designs, and we say, "that would be cool to see in an app" and...that's it. The mock never makes it to production. It stays forever in the designer's portfolios, code pens, and snippets.

Why so?

Well, in short, it's about money 💰.

In a never-ending backlog, a company would prioritize features and fixes that directly impact business metrics (which brings in the dough 💰) rather than invest their time creating innovative delightful interactions and designs. So these designs stay to gather dust at the bottom of the backlog.

And not all developers yet have the skillset for developing such interactions since it's not as necessary, and the web platform capabilities aren't there yet to make implementing them simple.

Also, creating apps is hard! when creating an app, they might go through these phases:

IdeaPrototypeBuggy AppKind of stable?

Not many people reach the "Kind of Stable?" or "Successful" phase to even think about going for the "Delightful App".

We need to make creating apps easier and shorten the time and effort to go through all these phases. The platform should have primitives baked-in to help create delightful experiences.

We need to leave designers some legroom to build something out of LOVE, not just out of NEED.

We need to create apps that are more FUN to use, not just EASY to use.

We must design with EMPATHY, not just EFFICIENCY.

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