Achieving Digital Delight-enment

Written by Laura Browne, Digital Project Manager

A good digital design is efficient, useful and easy to navigate. A delightful design excites by going beyond user expectations.

Delivering a delightful user experience is a vital goal of digital design. But it’s a tough challenge which needs hours of research, prototyping and design iterations.

As our world becomes more connected and always ‘on’, delight must be at the heart of this. Driven by a diverse range of user research, testing and careful release.

Narrow user research leads to obstructive experiences, particularly when designing for large scale. Over 1.59 billion people login to Facebook each day – so if the research team failed to include 1% of daily users into their research, they would exclude 15 million people from the platform.

Facebook Memories – To the average user, Facebook Memories is a lovely feature where visibility over long-forgotten memories are presented and evoke nostalgia, such as ‘On this day 8 years ago…’ with animated balloons.

Although Facebook’s intention was to delight its users, for some the feature brings up reminders of challenging times. There are several reports of users seeing deceased loved ones presented to them with balloons, jazzy music and cake, creating an emotional and upsetting experience.

Apple Watch Exercise Rings – Created to get the nation moving, the Exercise Rings act as an easy-to-read guide to remind users to ‘stand up’ or, based on data collected by the device about the wearer, notify that ‘Your rings are normally further along by now!’

What Apple didn’t predict was that, although health is important to many users, those who are pregnant, nursing sports injuries or undergoing chemotherapy don’t need to be told to move, because they simply can’t. The watch doesn’t understand different health needs, or have any easy option to update user data with current health conditions.

Apple and Facebook could have both improved their experience if they diversified their user research. Perhaps if Apple opened user research and testing towards a larger group, for example the physically impaired, results would show this friction and trigger research into a solution.

The design teams at Slack and Airbnb are faced with the challenge of designing on a large scale and yet manage to leave users feeling as though they have achieved ‘delight-enment’.


Slack – A well balanced blend of design and functionality, it’s no surprise developers, designers and researchers take to using Slack so easily. The communication platform designed by digital teams, for digital teams.

Simple interactions, such as signing in to the app, have been well-thought out with playful animations that inform and guide. The expectation of signing into an app by entering your email address and trying to remember a password created years ago has finally had an upgrade. Slack offers users an alternative ‘magic link’ to be emailed to their inbox, click the link and you’re in. Simple.

Slack doesn’t have to offer this improved design feature, but these small interactions build to a positive experience.

Airbnb – Simple to use, beautifully designed. It’s unlikely that any smartphone user hasn’t at least heard of Airbnb, the app has 150 million users around the globe after all. Airbnb has expertly overcome design obstacles which seems to fuel the company’s unstoppable growth.

How does Airbnb manage to get 2 million people each month walking through the front door of a stranger’s house? Trust. Both property owners and property renters trust the app which induces a feeling of security.

Airbnb hold trust at their core, understanding that designing for trust requires a lot of diverse research and empathy. The app never promises more than it can deliver, it does the basics extremely well and everything else is a bonus.

Delight can only be achieved if your product or platform is already executing basic tasks well each time. Features and improvements should only be rolled out after careful, broad research and prototype testing to ensure users experience your product as you intended.

Before resources and budget is committed to creating delightful interactions, consider if your core product is performing consistently. All efforts should be made to smooth out the basic product offerings before taking on the challenge of delight.

Image credit to Airbnb.

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