Emotion-driven Goals for UX and Business Success

In the corporate world, where I’ve spent most of my career, projects are ruled by the Business Requirement Document (BRD). These documents are meant to capture the goals and requirements that the end product must fulfill in order to be considered successful. The problem in most cases is that the BRD usually turns into little more than a laundry list of features, often perpetuated by whatever the competition is doing.

I’ve lost count of how often I’ve heard in a meeting, “Our competition is doing {something}, so we need to do this too,” often by the HiPPO (HighestPaid Persons Opinion) in the room. Lacking any real strategy or purpose those laundry lists make their way into our work. Why? What can we do to correct this and make sure that the features really serve a meaningful purpose?

Emotion-driven goals lead to meaningful experiences

As humans we are driven by our emotions. In fact emotions, not logic, are responsible for the actions we take and provides the meaning of our experience. Emotions that we’re either trying to achieve or avoid. Everything we do, we do for how we believe we’ll feel when we’re done. Emotions are our WHY.

Emotion-driven goals have been making quite a positive and interesting impact in my organization, where we’ve begun writing all our goals like this:

We will make our user feel (this emotion/feeling) by providing (this experience) that solves for (this pain point).

Think about the anxiety many of us feel when we try to buy something online, especially from an unfamiliar source. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel confident about your choice? To be able to weigh the options, understand the descriptions, and make a decision that doesn’t leave you wondering if you made the right choice.

Here’s how we might write a goal to solve this problem:

We want to make visitors feel confident in their buying decision by providing appropriately concise descriptions and creating a clear and simple method to compare products to reduce uncertainty created by too many unclear choices.

This can have a profound impact on your strategy and feature choices. We have seen laundry lists of features suddenly become not just manageable, but meaningful and purpose driven. Every choice is measured against the emotional goals of the user effectively removing subjective opinions and personal agendas from the decision-making process.

Practical tips for writing emotion-driven goals

  • List only one or two emotions/feelings for any goal. You’re not looking to create an emotional storm within your user. Quite honestly, the more emotions you list, the less likely you’ll be to evoke any one of them. Specificity is very helpful here.
  • Don’t try to write the goal on your own. You’ll get greater buy-in from stakeholders if they take part in the creation of the goals. It will also help build empathy for the user within the rest of the team.
  • Stay with it (this is more encouragement than a tip). It can take some getting used to and some folks will be a harder sell than others, especially data-driven folks. Your first emotion-driven goal might be one to engage your data-driven counterparts.

The benefits of emotion-driven goals

  • Reduce focus on features and increase empathy for users
  • Add specificity to goals to improve how features and content are created, measured, and validated for usefulness, usability, and desirability – which leads to meaningful interactions
  • Reduces subjectivity in the decision-making process
  • Reduces the HiPPO effect and elevates the user’s voice and needs above any one stakeholder’s agenda or biases

Next time you find yourself struggling with an overbearing HiPPO,  BRD laundry list, or content that just doesn’t feel right, try writing an emotion-driven goal. Emotions are inevitable so make them part of your goals.

How do you feel about emotion-driven goals?

Mike Donahue lives and works in South Florida where he is a UX Architect at Citrix. When this self-identified UX Ideologist is not evangelizing the need for meaningful UX through his blog or while speaking at conferences, he can be found (and occasionally lost) out in the wild pursuing his other passion nature and wildlife photography.

bnr14