At its core, product design is about the users. As designers and engineers, we have tremendous power to influence them — and, therefore, great responsibility. Post-pandemic, the ability to create products that make users better versions of themselves is more important and achievable than ever before. A human-centered approach that nudges people in the right direction rather than pushes them, is always the best. It is the best way to increase product adoption and improve user experience. The converse, user shaming, or pressuring are not only poor form but a big UX no-no as well.
Like we said--great responsibility.
Four Products Doing Emotional Human-Centered Design Right
Designing functional features into a product to improve users' lives is the easy part. What takes more rigor and investment is integrating positive impact. Emotions that (fingers-crossed) actually encourage people to be better human beings. Infusing emotional connections into products is part of the design process here at Speck Design. So. when we went about searching for examples of it in our own portfolio and a couple of outside of it too.
Sparkee: Design That Deepens Human Connections
Humans are a social species. We rely on connections to others to survive and thrive. Shared experiences create bonds between people and, in doing so, help them form deeper relationships. It's the science of sharing: a human survival tool. Many of our current-day social behaviors evolved around it: resource allocation, fairness, trust, equity, and Justice. Studies also suggest shared experiences are actually better. For example, when two people ate a piece of chocolate together, scientists observed it tasted better, and they enjoyed it more. This means that products that encourage sharing or deepen connections improve users and society writ large. Products like Sparkee. This wireless charger delights through its ability to connect humans through shared technology. An innovative mobile charging solution in its own right, it surprises users with something more: community charging. By itself, the power puck can hop on the back of a buddy's phone to lend a charge to a friend. When combined with the base, three phones can be charged at once! Though small, shared moments and experiences like these leave lasting emotional impressions and serve to deepen connections among peers.
Dexcom CGM: Design That Reduces Fear
Nearly 50% of American adults live with a chronic illness, meaning almost half of Americans regularly deal with complex illness-related routines: pain management, medication, or treatment. Even though the user activities surrounding chronic diseases are benign and even beneficial, the anxiety is not. This fear often creates avoidance behaviors in patients, even though they know it is the right thing to do for good health. People with diabetes who skip (or altogether avoid) taking their blood sugar are examples of this. Although there are several reasons why this behavior happens, fear of needles ranks top of the list.
"30% of people experience finger prick anxiety when performing self-monitoring of blood glucose levels. 13.7% of study participants avoid testing at least some of the time due to finger prick anxiety. 19% of people who do not perform routine blood-glucose monitoring reported that it's because of finger prick anxiety." ~POGO
Products that demonstrate understanding and empathy can help improve the adoption of these home healthcare routines. One such product is The Dexcom G6 CGM System, a real-time glucose monitor requiring no finger sticks or scanning. At the same time, it is discrete and water/sweat resistant. By seeking to meet users' emotional needs, they eliminated a significant roadblock to patient health: fear of needles. In doing so, this human-centered medical device allows its users to live healthier lives with markedly fewer lapses in care.
Wakka: Design That Forms Good Habits
Modern life is busy. Between balancing all the things we need to get done, and the endless avalanche of information being thrown at us, losing one's keys is par for the course. It's a frustrating time-suck that steals precious minutes from our days. Those among us who never lose their keys likely have excellent habits built around storing them. Unfortunately, the majority of us do not. The Wakka "key hook" is an elegant solution designed to create moments of awareness to help users form the habit of hanging their keys. By rewarding users with a soothing chime when the key ring is placed or pulled from the handsome wooden base, Wakka delightfully encourages even the most perennial of scatterbrains to slow down, take stock and form a routine.
The Edyn Sensor: Design That Moves People Closer to Nature
No matter how "modern" humans become, we are still deeply tied to nature. As we have become separated from it, the consequences of not having it around become increasingly apparent, as do the benefits of adding it to our routine. Being closer to the natural world improves mood and reduces stress--even when "closer" is just a picture. Color theory supports these observations. Green is the color humans respond to with rest, relaxation, and pause. Even emerging bodies of research reveal that time spent outside increases endorphins and may sharpen our cognitive abilities. Accordingly, a product that encourages its users to connect with nature, its flora or fauna, moves them closer to the best version of themselves. The Edyn Sensor does just that. It's a sensor and the corresponding app that connects users to their garden's soil, moisture, nutrition, temperature, humidity, and ambient light. It is easy to see how this engagement improves the user and their life experiences. But wait! The benefits of the Edyn device and app are multi-faceted: better humans, better gardens, better plants, better planet.
Post-Covid users are looking (consciously or subconsciously) for products that offer more profound experiences--especially for self-improvement. Because of this, it is an exciting time to be in the human-centered disciplines. It means our services are both required and requested now more than ever--opening up a world of possibilities…for a better world.