What Does it Mean for a Product to be Delightful?

·4 min read
Cover Image for What Does it Mean for a Product to be Delightful?

This was originally written while I was at Google, so the examples are geared toward software that most Googlers would know - rajat

People often talk about wanting to make products delightful. What does this mean in practice?

Delight is when a task is made unexpectedly easy

The key thing to note here is that Delight is based on the user’s expectations.

  • If they are expecting a task to be difficult and it is, then their expectations have been met.
  • If it is easier than they were anticipating, then they are delighted.
  • If it is harder, then they are frustrated.

Illustrative examples of Delight:

  • When Google Docs automatically corrects my spelling errors for me.
  • When Google Docs automatically completes my sentences for me.
  • When I use Smart Chips in Google Docs to automatically create meeting notes, or an email, or show the actual name of a Google Doc when I paste a URL.
  • When I can respond to a Google Doc/Sheets/Slides comment from within Gmail
  • When Smart Reply gives me the perfect response to a text that I can send with 1 click.
  • When I’m trying to parallel park my car and the rear-view camera shows me the rear-view, lines that indicate my path and warnings when I get too close to the curb or another car.
  • When Google Photos automatically creates albums of each of my kids, because it recognizes their faces.
  • When Google Photos Magic Eraser enables me to easily remove unwanted people & objects from the background of my pictures.

Illustrative counter-examples - Frustration:

  • Every time I have to file an expense report in Concur, I am filled with dread. I know that I will likely feel stupid & confused at some point in the process.
  • Every time I have to log vacation, I mentally steel myself to use the slow and clunky Workday UI.
  • Every time I have to parallel park in a car without a backup camera, it stresses me out and takes multiple attempts.
The Delight Scale

Delight goes best with flow

There is a joy that comes from using a really good tool. Tools that are made well disappear, enabling you to enter flow and accomplish your goals without thinking about the tool and the ways it is getting in your way. You can feel when tools aren’t made well (Concur, Workday) - every unexpected behavior or rough edge slows you down and makes you think.

Delight eventually becomes expected

The first time you use a backup camera in a car, it feels like magic. By the hundredth time, it becomes an expectation. You miss it if it’s not there, but you are no longer delighted by it. So all delightful features become expectations over time, and the challenge is to see if you can continue to find ways to delight your users.

Clearly framing your problem space helps with this. If you think of Docs as a word processor, you have limited the opportunities for delight. If you think of it as a collaborative tool for creating, refining and communicating ideas through words, then you have a lot more.

Delight doesn’t get people to use products more

The backup camera doesn’t make me want to parallel park more often, and Smart Chips don’t make me want to write more docs. But when I do have to parallel park or write a doc, they make me more effective and efficient at accomplishing my goals.

Delight isn’t fun

Asana has Celebration Creatures that show on task completion. This is fun, but is not delight. You can add fun if you’re at least NEUTRAL on the continuum, which Asana is. If you try to add fun to a frustrating tool, good luck to you.

In Summary

Delight = Expectation of Difficulty - Actual Difficulty


Our goal with Ask Steve is simple: Be Delightful

We do this by making a bunch of tasks that would ordinarily take a lot of manual work unexpectedly easy.

Try it today!

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