This essay will discuss the impact of emotional design and how it can affect the user experience while using a certain product or software. Even though the role of emotions on the web was neglected (it was suppressed by a wave of rational functionality and efficiency), when emotional touch is added in design it creates a more appealing and attractive product, which users tend to use more (Nielsen, 2003).

Review and impact

According to Norman (2003), all things arouse emotions in their users, and nowadays things like computers and phones can generate a whole collection of emotional responses. There is a relationship between a user and the product they interact with, and it’s known as a “Product – Emotion Cycle”. It refers to the set of the changes created in both user and a product during the interaction process, and each change of the product generates an emotional response. Only successful products can generate positive emotional experiences with users.

In his study, Norman (2003) highlights that emotional response can be invoked from three different levels of the brain mechanism, where each one of them plays a different role in the total functioning of people:

  • the visceral level – the level of predefined routines, where the brain analyses the environment and responds (how a user wants to feel);
  • the behavioral level – the brain can analyse a situation and act accordingly (what a user wants to do);
  • the reflective level – the brain can think about its own operations, with the conscious thought (who a user wants to be).

In 2007, Desmet, Porcelijn and van Dijk discussed an approach on the “design for wow”, which is described as a combination of fascination, pleasant surprise, and desire. They selected 8 mobile phones which they believed had excitement features that could evoke a “wow-experience”, and tested them with 35 participants (20 men and 15 women), age range from 20 to 28 years.

In the first study, they used the animated cartoon characters instead of words to represent the emotions elected by the stimuli. The results showed that 3 models out of 8 evoked the highest level of wow-experience.

The second round of studies was conducted in order to understand the emotional reasons relevant in the process of experiencing emotions such as desire, fascination and a pleasant surprise to mobile phones. They divided the given answers into 3 sections: goals, standards, and attitudes.

  • Goals – they wanted a product that is manageable, practical and reliable;
  • Standards – they thought the product should be of the best quality;
  • Attitudes – they liked products with consistent, unique and luxurious designs.

The final results of the study showed that, even though the entire concept of “wow” seems superficial (excitement that can only last until something new and more exciting comes), it is possible to design a product that evokes a “wow-experience”. The reason is that this experience is considered more complex than pure excitement. It can be aroused by a sophisticated opinion and has an experiential, physical and behavioral impact, just like Norman (2003) stated in his study. That been said, design for a “wow” (or emotional design) can result in products or software that people are not only passionate about to see but also eager to use and own, unconstrained by the new and more exciting products.

Method and results

The best example of a good emotional design can be found on

The design of this website shows excitement in more ways, with all 3 levels of Norman’s emotional design included:

  • visceral level – the entire page is a video of the car driving on the road, which creates an image of the unlimited potential. Proper colours and photos were used to derive the initial desire for the product in the user. The content is not made of sentences, but a series of brief quotes that seriously build force and add a feeling of excitement in the audience.
  • behavioral level – the user can rely on the usability, the function of the product and effectiveness of use. They even make their potential customers feel more encouraged to buy Tesla by asking the same questions as they would ask when they buy the car, such as: “Do you like a car that goes fast, quickly?” or “Do you care about the environment, so you want your car to be economical?”
  • reflective level – the fact that the driver’s face is not shown can initiate more desire, meaning that there can be anyone, even the observer itself. The user surely can tell a story about it and imagine themselves driving the car.

Having fulfilled all three aspects of the emotional design, Tesla’s customers – after purchasing one of the cars, will have the best quality “wow” product that is practical and reliable, and with consistent, unique and luxurious design.


One of the bad examples is, the tool for students where they can get the studying material, upload their assignments, and check their grades.


Even though the mentioned tasks were the main actions the student would use in this online portal, none of them were clearly shown or highlighted. General navigation is not intuitive and it’s difficult to understand the structure. No explanations of the icons and no messaging area anywhere on the site, which would have been helpful for the students who have questions about the assignment or about the software itself.

No emotions were derived from the experience gotten when using a site such as Blackboard. None of Nielsen’s 3 levels were satisfied on this website, nor the three aspects from the “wow-product” such as goals, standards, and attitudes.

The students didn’t get the product that is manageable, practical and reliable, nor the best quality one or with consistent, unique and luxurious design.


The next example is a mortgage calculator on PTSB website.

From the perspective of Norman’s three levels of emotional design (2003), none of them were respected.

  • visceral – this product didn’t make a good first impression, nor does it show credibility, quality or appeal;
  • behavioral – the product is usable, but the experience is not the best, especially on the mobile phone because of the numbers of input fields that scroll up and down when the keyboard is up.