Enlightened Delight

The phrase ‘surprise and delight’ is often tossed around the design industry. Its origins coming from the customer service world. Originally coined by Starbucks, it’s popularized by many industries hoping to inspire their teams and cash in on the buzz it creates. The mantra itself is great, but more recently in the design community it has become synonymous with superflous animations and over the top visual detail. ‘Surprise and delight’ have jumped the tracks.

Once a reminder to focus on going the extra mile by understanding your customer, the phrase has become a call for elaborate interaction and ornate detail. While fanciful animation and intricate details can indeed be surprising and delightful, increasingly it has become distraction. Or worse, a primary focus while usability suffers. Our goal as designers is to amplify the signal while supressing the noise. How can we focus on providing a high quality experience while still delivering surprise and delight?

There are so many apps and experiences in the marketplace today with amazing interface design, and thoughtful interactions. It’s no wonder so many teams are focused on surprise and delight. It can be tough to stand out in the sea of quality. Delivering the goods and going the extra mile for users is more difficult than it used to be.

It’s important to understand your users. Identify what things they desire, and aim to build a solid foundation. Focus intensely on delivering an experience that satisfies your users. Make the interface easy to understand: simplicity is the core of delight. Focus on the details that help users to get things done as simply and quickly as possible. Users can often be so frustrated by overcomplicated interactions that they abandon ship before they’ve had the chance to be surprised or delighted.

By starting with a foundation that emphasizes straightforward interface design, consistent interactions, and an intense user focus, they are delighted by a high quality experience. Starting with this user centric approach you really begin to understand what things they want and may be looking for. To truly surprise them, you have to present them with something they don’t expect. Make it something functional, make it desirable, make it something they won’t be bored of after the first interaction. Surprise should be infrequent, or executed in a way that becomes delight after the initial use. If it’s an animation everytime they use the menu,it must be executed perfectly, so it transitions to delight.

Surprise and delight are simple to achieve. Focus on the user, present them with the clearest interface and interactions, and give them useful and unexpected depth. When a user feels like you truly understand them, that your experience was designed for them, they are in the truest sense delighted. Layer in valuable surprise and memorable experiences begin to take shape.

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