Design products that make people feel good

I visited One Medical in Seattle recently for my annual physical. The clinic had tall ceilings, gentle lighting and colors, and modern decor that blended well together. It was a calming and welcoming space. 

The receptionist checked me in with a warm smile and a gentle voice. In a few minutes, the doctor met me in the reception and led me to her office. She showed similar warmth and genuine care. She asked me how I have been feeling, walked me through the process, gave me heads up and asked for permission before each procedure, then explained the results along with reassuring and firm advice on how to take care of myself. 

There was no medicine or treatment, but the visit had boosted my mood and wellness. I left feeling good and positive.

Let me contrast this with a couple of recent experiences.

Last week, I clicked on a link to Forbes or Fortune article. As soon as I scrolled down past the first paragraph, there was a pop up asking me to enter my email, then without warning, a video ad took over screen and autoplayed, and then I was prompted with an upsell to subscribe. My enthusiasm for the article was gutted and I just exit the page. What a hostile and classless reading experience! 

Yesterday, my 2 year old nephew was engrossed in a watching a cartoon on a phone. Someone called and the phone rang suddenly and loudly. It caught him by surprise and he started crying. This isn't a great adult experience either. If the user is already looking at the phone, can't the cue just be visual? Does it even have to ring? Can't the volume go up more gradually?

Think about the best product or service that you used recently. Why did you like it? What makes it so much better than the rest?

Good products are functional. Great products are emotionally calming, fulfilling and joyful to experience. 

We are emotional beings - feelings a core aspect of our wellness and how we value any experience. 

To create great products, you have to truly aspire to delight users, never be satisfied, keep learning, testing, observing, and honing the craft. Here are my top recommendations to get started: 

1. Start paying attention to how users would feel. What's their mood and need when they start the experience, what do they want to accomplish, how will they feel with each interaction, how will they feel when things don't work and how will they feel at the end. Aim to create a sense of comfort, fulfillment and joy with every interaction, big or small. Develop your intuition and do plenty of user interviews with close-to-real prototypes and situations. 

2. Create harmonious flows, not solo screens. Think about where the user starts, how they transition, how they end. Make them all feel like a cohesive, pleasing and consistent whole. 

3. Don't jar the user! Be gentle and gradual in interactions - don't switch from one thing to an other quickly and without warning. Use cues, animations, soft visuals, colors and usuals. Anticipate what they need and when, and gently prompt where helpful. 

4. Reduce cognitive load. Keep things simple and minimal. Have a clear visual hierarchy and information architecture. Tuck away controls and other elements that aren't relevant. 

5. Reduce scope, so you can delivery high quality. Product and design teams often fall into the trap of taking on a lot, spreading too thin and delivering sub par experiences. Great products are usually not the most full featured products. The first iPhone didn't even have cut and paste. Shipping low quality products also does vicious and irreparable harm to the culture by establishing low standards. 

Be thoughtful and caring, take pride in your work, aim high, keep learning and making things better. 

PS - Many of these apply not just to designing products and services, but also to how you interact with people in a personal or group setting every day. With care, thoughtfulness and practice, you can make every interaction peaceful and joyful to others.