MoodWall… and moods in general

This video is ridiculous and I don’t even like Harry Potter. But it made me laugh. YouTube’sMoodWall delivers.

You can read some sciencey thoughts about MoodWall at the Humintell blog – what stuck for me was the distinction between emotions and mood:

[Dr. Matsumoto, Humintell’s director] defines emotions as immediate, automatic, and involuntary reactions to events that are important to us. Moods, on the other hand, are states of mind that may make us more predisposed to having a certain emotional response.

For example, being in an irritable mood may make a person more predisposed to becoming angry more easily.

Thinking back to last week’s post on voice and tone, I wonder how empathic design & writing can help us understand moods better for those situations where we wish toinfluence a user’s mood and emotions. When is it productive to use happy talk, and when should you get to the point? How could a brochure site turn a skeptic into a buyer?

Many things to wonder. 🙂

Voice and tone – adapting to emotions and mindsets that underpin user scenarios

Much of the time, we take a pragmatic approach to communicating with our users – as in: “Here’s a situation. Here’s what they need to know. Let’s tell them.” And much of the time, our circumstances are so simple, we get away with not fussing more.

Other times, it pays to consider a user’s emotions and mindset in a given situation, particularly when the stakes are high, a subject is touchy, a topic is complicated, or if the brand we represent is less than trusted.

The company who run MailChimp (a diy email newsletter service) run an interactive handbook of common communication scenarios, what users are feeling in those scenarios, and simple tactics for adapting your language to address those feelings.

All the examples are relative to email marketing, but skimming a few will give you a feel for good ways to cater to your audience’s mood.

The importance of storytelling


When most people think about marketing, these are the tools they think of: print, radio, TV and the web. None of these, however, are ingrained in us as much as storytelling. We’ve been telling stories for thousands of years, but we don’t have to go back that far to understand storytelling’s powerful effect on our hearts and minds. Go back only as far as your childhood, when you begged your parents to read your favorite story—the one you already knew by heart—just one more time. Why did you do that? Why was it so important to hear that story?

Stories and the art of storytelling play a major role in content marketing today. Not all brands realize the importance of unearthing their core story and learning to tell stories in ways that endear new fans and motivate advocates.

Source: 7 Reasons Storytelling is Important for Branded Content

I’m not keen on storytelling driven by marketing, but that’s not to say it’s bad – storytelling can be done well and with integrity. Just like SEO, used car sales and Christmas.

Not IF we tell them, but WHEN.

The question I love most while designing is:

“What mindset are we designing for?”

As designers (and devs!), we’re privy to the information required by both shopkeeper and customer. We also tend to learn the hard way that this information can’t be smashed all at once.


From reflecting (over-thinking) on my own thoughts while shopping, I know I transition through different states of mind as I go from browsing to buying, and eventually to having. Thus, my need for information changes depending on where I am in the shopping process.

For example: I don’t care about “indemnification” or “limitation of liability” when I’m still trying to figure out what’s on offer; save it for after I’ve decided your terms are relevant to my interests.

For the next 30 seconds, let’s assume you and other users are like me – our need for information changes as we go.

Common wisdom tells us that timing is everything in communication. While the playing field is different in web design, the same strategies still apply. In offline communication, you consider the circumstances of the person you’re speaking to – whether they’re rushing and don’t have time to listen; whether it’s too early in the day for complicated questions; whether they have enough background knowledge to answer your question, etc.

So when designing user journeys, it can be useful to empathise with the user at every part of the journey. This involves asking ourselves questions like:

  • Does the user need to know this yet?
  • What other information does this piece of detail compete with right now?
  • Have we given the user enough context to understand this at this point?

If you can get the timing right, the user experience is seamless; you’re a ninja. All information requirements are met before the user knows it, and you’re nowhere to be seen.

Pic sauce:

The Personality Principle


If your interface has personality, good or bad aesthetics, quality, flow, satisfaction, or fulfilment are not important; I’d probably even go as far as saying that usability is not important either. Personality trumps all the rest because it is the only one that can give the user an emotionally valuable engagement with the software engineering artefact. There are no tests for this principle, if it has personality you’ll know it!

Source: The Personality Principle [#ux], Thinking Out Loud

This guy makes an interesting point. I don’t know if I could prove that aesthetics, quality and flow are unimportant, but personality (or lack of personality) does tend to cut through all of that stuff. When our site lacks personality, our users certainly have no qualms telling us about it. 😐

Think of someone you know. Think of surface stuff like how they dress, what they do, how they talk, what they drive, their mannerisms and body language. Now think of below-the-surface stuff like their emotionality or lack thereof, their reactivity or stability, their capacity for empathy, their likes and dislikes, their respect for boundaries, sense of humour and how they treat you as a person.

You can make two good arguments here:

1. That if someone’s below-the-surface stuff impresses you, you probably won’t mind so much how they dress or the annoying habits they have. Similarly, if they’ve upset you somehow, even a slip of the tongue or misplaced elbow will give you the shits. Therefore, you could say the below-the-surface stuff – personality – does trump the superficial aspects.

2. When getting to know someone, their superficial aspects are what you see first, and may effectively prime you to interpret their below-the-surface traits in a biased way. If you hate black because it reminds you of bad kids in school, then someone wearing black all the time might start you down the winding road of misjudgment (this is an extreme example; we’re all way smarter than that!). Here, you could say the surface stuff – aesthetics, quality, flow – are actually very important.

So, websites:

Do you think personality trumps all, stands on equal footing, or doesn’t matter?

Have you seen a site with loads of personality – how did you feel about it next to a site with no personality?

What do you reckon are the risks of designing and launching a site that’s functionally and aesthetically sound, but has the personality of mayonnaise?