Fun is important to design usability (Monk et al 2002; Overbeeke et. al. 2002; Hazzenzahl and Burmester 2001).
Fun activates several important cognitive processes, known for centuries from games we have created and played. Think of a fun game you lasted played...These same processes make fun an important design usability tool.
First, fun loosens structured cognition making it easier to learn. Fun engages whole-brain learning by engaging our right-brain processes (in the right prefrontal cortex).
Second fun triggers feel-good brain chemicals (endorphins, dopamine, seratonin) and activates positive and relaxed emotions.
Lastly, fun allows exploration without fear of failure or frustration that comes with making errors or perceived errors.
Video: How Fun Can Change People's Decisions
10 Rules to Augment Fun and Beauty in Interaction DesignSource: Overbeeke et. al. “Let’s Make things Engaging” in Funology (book). Comments are by Frank Spillers.
3 Common Enemies of Fun in Design
1. Don’t think products, think experiences.
Comment: Support the context for the experience to unfold. Products are static, experiences are fluid.
2. Don’t think beauty in appearance, think beauty in interaction.
Comment: Beauty is skin deep. An interface needs to respond beautifully when users interact with it.
3. Don’t think ease of use, think enjoyment of the experience.
Comment: Easy does not matter as much as an overall experience that is irresistible, compelling and desirable.
4. Don’t think buttons, think rich actions.
Comment: Move past buttons and links and more toward user experience strategy.
5. Don’t think labels, think expressiveness and identity.
Comment: Instead of labeling icons and controls, design them to stand out or call screaming attention to the task.
6. Metaphor sucks.
Comment: Don't try to over do it with metaphor unless it really works...this is rare since metaphors do not translate from offline reality to online experiences.
7. Don’t hide, don’t represent. Show.
Comment: Choose transparency of actions instead of hiding options, processes, descriptions or actions that users must know or explore to find.
8. Don’t think affordances, think irresistibles.
Comment: Focus on evoking feelings rather than focusing on functional controls.
9. Hit me, touch me, and I know how you feel.
Comment: Study the rich actions surrounding a products use and design to those emotions.
10. Don’t think thinking, just do doing.
Comment: Get hands-onwith the design early on. Keep visual representations in step with cognitive guidelines and requirements.
1. Discoverability- Searching, hunting, exploring, finding...these are all aspects of discoverability behavior. If your website, application or product requires too much discoverability (or any for that matter), you're moving users away from fun.
2. Implicit Rules- One of the biggest challenges of design is "how something works" is always not apparent. Intuitive designs require little to no understanding. This means rules are discoverable, explicit and transparent.
3. Memory- Having to remember what to do or where to go beyond a "quick guess" can cause users to digress from design enjoyment.
As we move into a new decade, let's engineer more joy into our product experiences, design for fun and focus less on the importance of "ease of use" and more on "joy of use".
Frank Spillers MS
Want more? Check out my 15 Lessons from Emotion Design (archived seminar slides and audio).