Desirability is a very real component of a product’s User eXperience. The feelings that a product invokes in an individual are often difficult for that individual to elaborate upon, beyond such feelings like those of a sense of pleasantness, happiness, awkwardness, or one of frustration.
While quantifying Desirability can, in many cases, prove to be quite challenging, those emotions that relate to the Desirability of a product can be quantified via Quick-UX as one of its three core categories (the other two core categories being Usability and Usefulness).
The minimal representative subset of variables for Desirability that adhere to the primary goals of Quick-UX (quick assessment for summary, direction guidance, and quantitative comparison) are…
- Aesthetics (and minimal design),
- Layout (including the visual hierarchy, flow and grouping of elements of the product)
- Color Scheme (and Contrast), and
Information overload negatively impacts, hence the word ‘overload,’ the actual Desirability of a product. Any more, or supplemental, information and functionality than is needed contributes to the erosion of a pleasing and enjoyable experience.
Content, mouse-interactions, and transitional animations should be kept short and to the point. Do not explain a feature with a paragraph of information where a brief 3 word phrase would do, nor use a 3 word phrase when a clearly identifiable button can, itself, clearly convey the underlying message or functionality.
I have found that the product’s Aesthetics contribute most significantly to its overall Desirability. For this reason, unlike the other variables that make up Quick-UX, the Aesthetics variable can be assigned a value from 0 through 2 (as opposed to the typical maximum value of 1).
The value assigned to the Aesthetics variable in determining Desirability within Quick-UX is…
- 2 if the product presents a clean, sharp, pleasing and enjoyable product environment where interaction is a pleasure. In addition, the product consistently makes good use of mouse-overs and animated transitions.
- 1 if the product presents generally “OK” Aesthetics. The product may have some mouse-over states and other beneficial transitions, but these states and transitions are found to be incomplete and would benefit from a more comprehensive and consistent implementation.
- 0 if the product suffers from information and graphical (transitions, interactions, etc.) overload. In this case, the content and graphical aspects of the site continually get in the way of getting the desired task completed quickly, efficiently, and enjoyably.
The Layout of a page is about more than just Usability. The Layout of a page, the visual hierarchy, its flow, as well as grouping and alignment of its elements, is the environment within which the user works and interacts with the product — it sets the tone and, in turn, shapes the product’s Desirability.
The value of the Layout variable is the sum of the decisions…
…regarding the product’s visual hierarchy…
If the most important content of the page
- Stands out clearly (the user’s eyes are instantly drawn to these elements), add 0.4, or
- Takes at least a few seconds to become apparent, add 0.2, or
- Takes more than a few seconds to become apparent, don’t add anything.
…regarding the interface’s visual flow…
The visual flow can be described as the interface/page forces that guide the users’ eyes about the page. If a page has a negative visual flow, then it contributes to guiding the eyes away from the critical sections that need to be looked at and used to take primary actions and make decisions.
If the overall visual flow provides a non-negative impact on the page hierarchy,
then add 0.3,
otherwise do not add anything.
Furthermore, if the interfaces of the product require / recommend a specific sequence of steps be taken to accomplish a task, and the visual flow has a negative impact, guiding the user in the non-desired order, then subtract 0.15 from the Layout variable.
…regarding the grouping and alignment of the page / product elements…
A good product has clearly defined ‘regions’ within its interface. For example, a search engine may have one region for entering the search parameters, and another region for viewing the search results.
If the interfaces of the product present UI elements that appear to be scattered, placed without association or relevance to neighboring or distant elements that possess similar or different functionality, then no additional value is added to the Layout variable.
Otherwise, if most page elements appear to form logical, related groups or clusters, where perhaps not all of the clusters are neighboring or some of the clusters have redundant logic and functionality, then add 0.15 to the Layout variable.
However, if the relationships between like and dissimilar elements and groups are clearly presented, with no apparent inconsistencies, then the Layout variable is, instead, incremented by 0.3.
Color Scheme / Contrast
The Color Scheme of a product sets the mood and appeal. Color schemes can be simple, with only one or two colors, to very complex, with many complementary and varying levels of contrasting colors.
For example, red’s, yellow’s and orange’s are warm colors and, as a Color Scheme, could, very appropriately, be paired with products that wish to intuitively convey concepts or themes of warming or heating, like FeedBurner (as a theme derived from the name) or portable space heaters (products that keep you warm in the cold of winter).
The Color Scheme variable is assigned the value of…
- 1 if approximately one to three primary hues are present within the product and those selected hues accurately reflect the message and theme of the product (some examples: warm colors = energy, cool colors = respectable, etc.).
- 0.5 if the color palette is cluttered, there are some extraneous color selections or a mismatch of color temperature, Contrast, or saturation with respect to the messaging and tone. For example, an air conditioning website would probably want to stay away from the warm colors (red, yellow, orange), even if aesthetically pleasing.
- 0 if the Contrast and color selections that comprise the product’s Color Scheme make some or all of the product’s information and/or functionality difficult or impossible to read or understand.
Some people do not fully appreciate the degree of impact that Typography can have on a product’s overall User eXperience, and especially its Desirability. Different fonts, different font sizes, and how they are arranged and laid out to interact with one another and other product elements, do more than present readable, or unreadable, content, but frame many of the emotional aspects of the product.
Typography decisions control the ranges of voice from loud and shouting to gentle and whispering, from serious to comical. When products are presented with too many fonts, they increase the likelihood of conveying the information with too many, and inconsistent, voices; as opposed to a pleasing, guiding conversation about the product.
- If the Typography from page to page, interface to interface, functionality type to functionality type, is clean, readable, and consistent in usage then the Typography variable is assigned a value of 1.
- Otherwise, if minor to major inconsistencies are apparent, or an overloading of Typography ‘voices’ are present, but all remain readable, the Typography variable becomes 0.5.
- However, if the inconsistencies are tremendous, and make understanding the content difficult or bewildering, or even if only some of the content is unreadable, the Typography variable equals 0.
So… Do I want to use it?
While this question within the Quick-UX framework provides for the rapid assessment of Desirability, it represents only one of the three ‘questions’ that, when combined with…
…provide for an easy, consistent, and expeditious means by which to determine a product’s overall User eXperience.
The Product Guy