Thursday, April 13, 2006

Emotionally-centered design

What makes an application have an emotional appeal?...

"Web 2.0 is coming. Rich Internet applications (RIA) are here. Hurrah! The internet has caught up with the desktop, at long last. As a result, they provide some natural experiments in emotionally-attractive websites, allowing us to contrast the more traditional, static html page website with these more interactive, dynamic ones, where there are natural controls for information content, utility, and usability. So let’s see what we can learn from them. In this exploration, I concentrate on map websites because they provide the ingredients for appropriate comparisons.

We know how to make products that are easy to use and understand. But what about emotions? What about designs that delight? What do we know about how to produce an emotional impact?

Why are Goggle earth, Google maps (, the Beta version of Yahoo! maps ( and Microsoft’s Windows Live ( so compelling, addictive, delightful? They provide the same information as the older, static maps from Yahoo!, MapQuest, MSN, and others, and the very same driving directions. They aren’t any more usable or easy to understand than the older, more static sites – some people have even found them more difficult, especially in their beta deployments. But they are more fun and engaging. What lessons can be learned from this?

To see what I am referring to, enter a geographical location into your favorite, old-style mapping program. Then go to all three of the RIA sites:,, and and look at the same location. The maps on the RIA sites look the same as the more traditional one, that is until you try to move a map so you can see more area to the sides, and zoom in and out, or superimpose satellite images (only available on Google and Windows Live).

The main ingredients of RIA are pre-caching of content coupled with more processing on the client side. The result is instant response, the ability to drag and drop internet content, and fluid, responsive graphics. Macromedia’s Flash was a precursor to this style of interaction, and Macromedia’s Flex tools improve upon the experience. Lately, developers have exploited AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript And XML) for these purposes. Laszlo Systems provides developer tools: You can find interesting sites at Laszlo Systems. (Also visit wikipedia for their articles on Ajax and Rich Internet Applications). Google mail and maps were perhaps the first mainstream applications of AJAX tools, although they were not the first deployment. Where Google goes, the competition follows, including the mapping websites listed above. The main result of this competition is that everyone has benefited. Expect to see this style of interaction proliferate."   continued ...   (Via Donald


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