While we as humans have come a long way when it comes to emotional intelligence, website design, however, is still in its adolescence. During the early 2000s, designers were building sites without data tables. Now we have come a long way in using data to make some critical decisions. Previously, emotions weren’t seen as having a role in driving traffic to the site or in increasing page views, sales or video plays.
In that paradigm, the designer’s role was to ensure that people reach from point A to the point B and nothing else. But nowadays, people live much of their lives online. And hence we are embarking on a new frontier as designers. We are developing or designing frameworks that help people to exist online just like how they do offline.
An example of the need for these changes is the instances when people who lost their mothers receive auto messages suggesting that they buy surprise gifts for their mothers on Mother’s Day. While it may be appropriate for those who did not lose their mothers, it can be upsetting for people who have suffered a loss.
One thing that people need to remember is that we do not stop being a human the moment we go online. Sometimes, it is possible to hurt a person even when you have the best of intentions. It is essential to understand that all our human emotions come with us when we go online.
For many years, designers approached the software as if it was neutral. They gave it a set of instructions that it needs to follow to complete the task. But in reality, the way a person interacts with a software product just like how they do with other humans.
As designers, it is necessary to ponder and understand how people are going to feel when they use your product. The capacity to handle the relationships and being aware of the emotions is known as emotional intelligence. This important skill is often what is missing in most of the software designs these days.
Facebook, for example, only had a like button for many years. Their users had only this option apart from the comments box to express themselves no matter whether they liked or disliked a post. But Facebook came to understand the importance of changing this icon and introduced ‘reactions’ or ’emojis’ such as “sad,” “wow,” “haha,” “love” and “angry.” It was a great way for them to boost user interaction and engagement.
You can define the emotional Intelligence primarily with these five characteristics:
- People Skills
Self Regulation and Self Awareness
Since software does not have any feelings, ultimately what it expresses is explicitly coming from the designer who does have opinions. One of the best examples we have of self-awareness is how Facebook inquires with their users to check if they are okay to see ads which are based on their behavior.
Besides creating an excellent experience for the user, it is also relevant to the user.
Self-regulation is being able to use the numbers wisely. You should not think that since the analytics are going up, it is a good thing. For example, one professional website used to spam users contacts by sending messages on behalf of the user to their connections to increase the engagement rate. This happened even when the user did not want to interact with some people on their contact list. While it did help the engagement rate to rise, the trust in the company fell drastically when the user identified this practice, and the engagement rate was obviously not authentic. It is one reason why most of the social media platforms nowadays have a disclaimer below the login credentials that they will not post content on behalf of the user.
Designers need to understand their user’s motivations to inform their own. One of the best ways to understand motivation is to change the perspective. Of course, this is the hardest thing to do and can be very challenging. Nevertheless, considering perspective can lead to improvements in design.
For example, how would a person who is overweight feel when he cannot find the clothes of his size available at a store? He feels rejected and also thinks that the store is only meant for a body of a particular type. In the same way, since people of different backgrounds and experience use your product, they should not feel left out.
One potential way to assist a designer in building a website that considers different perspectives is having people of different backgrounds and life circumstances as part of their development team. They will be able to give better feedback on how they feel about using a particular product. Since more perspectives are at the table, you will have fewer blind spots, and as a designer, you can create more things that people want.
Empathy and People’s Skill
Having a little humility can be of great help. Since designers are usually not end-users of a product, they need to understand how people want to use the product they are going to design. You cannot find out this information unless you do some research.
It is a bit like when your uncle gives you an iTunes gift card because your brother likes them and he thinks that you might like it as well. But you might not be someone who loves music, and the gift is not a good fit for you. Every time as a designer you create a product, you need to consider if it is something the end-users love using.
It’s not just about excellent but appropriate content. The number of airplane crashes reduced significantly because designers were able to use the crash data to create more robust and strong planes. In the same manner, designers need to take the time to test assumptions, to be wrong and change their thinking. Proper research will help you come with many questions as well as answers.
When the product acts mindlessly, it fails to incorporate people’s emotions, affecting someone’s feeling, health, support systems, and livelihood. Smart use of emotional intelligence can prevent designers from falling into the same shortcomings of yesterday’s design. Addressing users as whole human beings with a range of emotional experiences means making emotional intelligence a cornerstone of web design.