In business, there are deep-rooted certainties: perpetual competition, paired with rapid change. These inherent qualities are often mirrored in design—an ever-changing and expanding discipline that emphasizes fundamental problem-solving by considering the constant flux of users and their needs, distilling those ideas into functional output. Yet, despite a handful of contemporary enterprises who have embraced design and design strategy as a business imperative, many continue to shun purposeful communication. Instead, they opt for a simplified, codified visual system that tends to ensure utilitarian best practices are being met, without much regard for leaving a lasting impression. More so than ever, in a commodified landscape of web and application design, it’s critical not only to find balance between functionality and form, but also the astute element of ‘Feeling.’
Businesses must consider a purely digital landscape not only for the convenience and immediacy it has to offer, but also for its biggest short-coming, humanity.
Before expanding on the implications and importance of Feeling within a brand’s web experience, allow me to reiterate the non-negotiable: functionality and form. Whatever you’re building must work; it must carry out core business needs, and in doing so, show little resistance to the user. While there can be limited debate around these requisites, they can no longer be considered the lone benchmark of success. Businesses must consider a purely digital landscape not only for the convenience and immediacy it has to offer, but also for its biggest short-coming, humanity.
Feeling embodies a humanist element that transcends the utility of the conventional web experience. Some have referred to this as the ‘delight’ of interacting with a product, or in much broader, industry-friendly terms, Experiential Design. It speaks directly to the user as a means of connecting on an intellectual and emotional level, yet without the intention of selling, or extrapolating on a set of brand values. However, when considered from the onset, Feeling can be an inherent extension of your product, and by proxy, your brand. If this sounds amorphous, that’s because it is.
If the intention is to create a meeting place between imagination and knowledge, then it’s the responsibility of designers and strategists to effortlessly weave Feeling into the user experience, rather than treating it as a tangential distraction.
It’s important to understand there are no hard and fast rules around creating an earnest experience with a user. That’s because the effectiveness of Feeling relies on a delicate execution. If the intention is to create a meeting place between imagination and knowledge, then it’s the responsibility of designers and strategists to effortlessly weave Feeling into the user experience, rather than treating it as a tangential distraction. Ornate and decorative presentations may attempt to communicate that a product is cutting-edge, fun, or a number of other adjectives, but it can also create an air of insincerity amongst the audience, and at worst, disrupt conversions.
Having a lasting influence on day-to-day human activity requires imaginative eloquence and a thorough attention to detail that considers the audience and their purpose for interacting with your product. Thus, Feeling’s role in a given experience may be as subtle as copywriting that sparks imagination beyond the goals it aims to communicate, or simply a unique cursor hover that upends expectation.
With an over-saturation of brands competing for our attention, the modern web user is exposed to a larger variety of products (and subsequently, sales pitches) more than ever. This results in shifting demands as users grow more adept at bypassing hollow advertising promises. No longer can brands simply produce to stimulate consumption, but they must provide products and experiences that stand in a harmonious relationship to the circumstances in which we live our lives.