Recently we’ve been having an internal debate about what it means to “design for delight” — one of the core Citrix design principles being propagated via posters, executive talks, etc. Is delight the fact that the damn thing just works?(a baseline minimal expectation IMHO that every product should achieve) Or some splashy sparkly pizazz that (over) stimulates the senses? Or something else…? And do these expectations of what is delightful evolve over time as the delight becomes the norm? How does the product adapt accordingly…
In addition, we have a design principle extolling the value of craftsmanship in everything we do, with focused attention upon the tiniest details of a high-quality software product, much like a Stradivarius violin… or the Apple iPhone 4, which itself embodies the solidity and craft of a Braun design, and the values of Dieter Rams with elegance and simplicity of form. Here craft includes the engineering, manufacturing, and software design integratively.
Taken together, I think it’s really about “crafting delight” towards a cohesive, aesthetic engagement that resonates with a person’s goals and values–and exceeds expectations. Also note the “person” should be perceived as “intelligent, yet impatient”, which I’ve heard is the mantra about users popularized at Apple. This means the person, while very busy, still values the little flourishes that accentuate and improve achieving her goal. She is not a simple machine that needs to be spoon-fed rote explicit instructions in brute force style. What matters then, are the visual and behavioral touches that signify care, thoughtfulness, and a desire to enhance the interaction for everyday convenience and pleasant usage. It’s about subtle poetics, not vibrant spectacle. Not the big splashy thing, which may be fun for the initial encounter to spark up the tone. But for daily utility amid the tedium of work at the office, and so forth. What are those little surprises that make the user say “That’s nice”, “Thank you”, and “Of course”? Instead of slow painful death by a thousand cuts it’s for long-term satisfaction (and brand loyalty!) by a thousand little delights that take the user beyond the functional baseline.
This site features a nice catalog of tiny touches in software interfaces that make things just a bit more convenient, communicative, useful, and just plain delightful to use: http://littlebigdetails.com/
And in terms of crafting interaction design, which is to say behavior, this site has a a couple very detailed stories of how behavior can be artfully designed to help a user be productive, efficient, and happy: http://www.theinvisibl.com/
Thinking about what exactly happens at which period in time and at what state and defining the rules around that is what I’ve often called “nuts-and-bolts” interaction design. Sounds very tedious, yet it’s quite critical. Coupled with exquisite visual design, this is really what makes a product become much more than a mere tool but a valued companion incorporated into a person’s lifestyle and workstyle, the daily habits of activity.