Emotional design: the best method to enhance the UX

Emotions determine our lives and drive us to most of our decisions.

Numerous factors going beyond the product benefits and facts also play a role in online shopping or web-surfing. Such terms as “emotional usability”/”user experience” or “joy of use” from buzzwords turned into integral parts of the design of websites and apps.

Before starting, you should know that empathy is the ability of a person to put themselves in the shoes of another. As designers of platforms, sites, applications, or any interface, we have heard that multiple times.

Even though, have you ever thought about emotions and their importance more deeply?

An empathic person can know what another person experiences in any situation and state of mind.

Empathy for the user is essential for an experience design to be adequate. If we understand and know what emotion we want to provoke in someone and what factors affect the experience, the better it can be designed.

One of the methods of ensuring that we consider the user’s feelings is by knowing how to perform emotional design.

Emotions as a central element in purchasing decisions

In the buying process, lots of factors play a role that goes far beyond the product benefits and characteristics. The incoming flow of information processed by our brain generates positive and negative emotions, influencing our thoughts and actions. Since this mostly happens unconsciously, we do not often recognize what drives us to our decisions. We, as the UX-designers, have a guess.

Thus, when designing a new project, you should recognize that each of its components will affect the final buyer’s decision.

When discussing emotional design with a client, UXbee’s designers get the following question very often: How does the usability of a product/website/app affect the emotional experience of the product? Our specialists always answer that when usability is poor or does not comply with the basics, it can negatively affect how users potentially feel and thus affect their global perception of a product.

With that in mind, you as a designer or a product owner should realize that no matter how aesthetic the outcome is, the customers’ decisions could be affected by the slightest details that cause negative emotions.

Let’s take a web page as an example here. We may have the right content, cutting-edge visual design, but some of the elements pulling the wrong emotional string might complicate the customer meeting their final objective (e.g., making a purchase). This way, you can end up losing a potential customer.

During our long way in designing we understood that people’s minds go through different stages when finding a product, and in our projects, we forethink them all.

We can’t say that all your projects should be emotional design projects, but we can say that in reviewing them, you should consider putting yourself in the client’s shoes.

So, let’s get closer to the topic and get to the definition of our discussion’s main point.

What is emotional design?

Emotional design is an innovative concept that helps us see beyond the rational in industrial design, focusing on the human factor instead.

The concept of emotional design was coined by the doctor of cognitive sciences, Donald Norman. He first introduced the term in his book “Emotional Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things”.

You can say that the term is relatively new since Norman’s work publishing year was 2003.

In short, emotional design, according to Donald Norman, is defined as a branch of design that is dedicated to the aspects of product design to create the appropriate psychological links between the user and the object through sensory interaction. In this way, the emotional design seeks to build a more pleasant experience for users.

The emotional design focuses on three emotional levels that it seeks to satisfy: visceral, behavioral, and reflective.

Visceral: They say that almost everything enters our brain through the eyes, and this sums up this point very well since it is the immediate reaction we have to the first stimulus that a product gives us: its physical appearance, texture, temperature, weight, and size.

Behavioral: The functional aspect, usability. How easy we understand the use of the product and if it meets our needs and expectations.

Thoughtful: This is where we decide whether the product is for us or not. We think about how it will serve or affect us in the short or long term.

Designing projects in UXbee, we always try to provoke emotional reactions to implicit stimuli since, as it appeals to the unconscious of people: it is the most effective.

How to bring the emotional design to a site?

User emotions are factors that help us guide the user experience by leaving the appropriate emotion.

You as a designer can develop empathy for the user by asking yourself the following questions when developing an app or website: 

  • Did you have to think a lot before you were able to navigate or use the app/website? The page should be responsive and be adaptive to any device through which we view the content.
  • How long did it take you to understand how it works? The thing to remember here is that the reading nature of the brain goes from left to right and from top to bottom.
  • How well did you adapt to it? When designing, keep symmetry in mind. The brain tends to prefer images, balanced between all the components, which creates a positive emotion.

 Another tool to better understand the user is the Empathy map since it helps to connect to the emotions of the users’. This map is divided into quadrants that show what users hear, what they see, think, feel, say, or do.

Finally, include the user’s Pain Points to understand what you do not want to cause with the design.

User emotions are central, and after reading this article, you would be able to cause the appropriate one.

In addition, when a UX designer has the client’s emotions and sensations in mind, it is much easier to achieve loyalty and turn your project into a long-term business relationship.


The key to success in modern e-commerce lies in viewing your offer through the eyes of the customer. Only those who take off their company glasses and get to know their users, their requirements, questions, and, above all, emotions can align their apps and websites with them and be successful in the long term.