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Emotion-centered Design

So I was vacuuming the other day.  Take a look at this photo of me holding the vaccum.  (I'll bring this back to interactive design, trust me.) Quick - which of the two grey oval buttons turns the vacuum on, and which one flips open the dirt cup and dumps the dirt out?  

Tough to tell right?  And it's not just the angle.  Neither of these oval buttons has any words or symbols on them to indicate what they do.  Now I have another question.  Take another look at the vacuum.  Considering the ultra compact size and light weight, which of the following scenarios is this vacuum most likely to be used in?

  1. It's saturday morning.  Time to vacuum the house, because I always vacuum the house on saturday mornings. 
  2. Your mother is coming over in ten minutes!?!?!  This place is a wreck!!  You put the dishes away and I'll vacuum this floor quick.  Hurry up!!
  3. Your brother dumped what on the floor?  How many times do I have to tell you kids to keep the food in the kitchen?  Now put those bowls away while I vacuum this up, again!!

Obviously, it's not number 1.  You're probably using a full-sized vacuum for your routine cleaning.  These compact things are designed to be used for quick, spotty cleanups.  And who does quick cleanups?  Someone in a hurry, or someone frustated that they're having to do a quick cleanup at all.  In other words, people least in the frame of mind to tolerate having the dirt from their vacuum dumped out on the floor while they're trying to turn the thing on or off.  The intended use of this particular type of vacuum warrants more attention to the liklihood of accidently dumping dirt out on the floor than a standard vacuum does.

Now, you might be saying "Nate.  I have that same vacuum.  I paid $14 for it. Ease up, pal."  And you're right - my point is not to blast the manufacturer for an inferior product.  But it's an illustratation of the thought process behind designing a good user interface, whether on a vaccuum or on a website.  In order to fully consider who's going to use your product, you have to consider their frame of mind and emotional state while they're using it.