What do you think of as “essential” when building a new product? Well, you need a login system, CMS system, good user flows, and analytics hookups, among other things.
But what about the more human aspects of the product? Those small touches and unanticipated experiences which actually make customers happy and (fondly) remember and share the experience they had with your product?
What I’m talking about here are the sort of hidden gems you often come across in the gaming industry, like the “invincible frying pan tactic” made famous in PUBG, or the seemingly endless secret rooms or easter eggs players stumble upon in Super Mario. These are the kinds of surprises which become sensations on YouTube and in threads on Reddit. These are what make these games truly memorable, shareable, and replayable. And the reason they’re so valuable is that they resonate with customers on a more personal level — they intrigue and excite them in a fundamentally different way.
Creating this sense of delight is an absolute must in game development.
But it’s also applicable to any consumer-oriented product, hardware or software. And it’s the companies that have built this delight into their products, giving their users the unexpected and just plain fun, that are emerging as the winners today.
So, how do you go about creating this kind of delight? Well, that’s easier said than done.
The first step is to constantly remind yourself that you are building products for people, not machines.
When founders, including myself, typically start building new apps, games, or tools — especially when they are scrambling to release an MVP or V1 of their product — we always seem to forget about infusing them with personality.
But that, ultimately, is what delighting your customers comes down to. We’re building for people — people who are emotional, desiring of connection and humor. And when people encounter experiences in technology which make them laugh, or make them feel understood, that’s what delights them.
People want products that resonate.
And when engaging with a new product, people want to feel that it was made for them by people just like them.
People want to be delighted.
It’s delight that produces the sort of genuine virality all technology companies kill for. The best companies, in fact, optimize for it.
Although adding “delight” or some “fun” to your product may seem like a frivolous waste of time when you’re scrambling during the dev process, I’m telling you from first-hand experience that the shareability and emotional connection you may get from these small touches is one of the best business decisions you can make. Nevermind the fact that it gives your team a time to have some fun, express their creativity and personalities, and do something truly unique that they will remember and tell their friends, “Hey, that was my idea.”
Here are some companies who, in my opinion, do an amazing job adding delight to their products:
- Snapple’s “Fun Facts.” You don’t need to be a tech company to add delight to your products — FYI :). One of my favorite examples of delight is the fun facts underneath the Snapple bottle cap. This small touch set them apart from every other drink company, and in the process, carved out a unique space in each new customer’s heart. Drinks are a standard commodity, but customers to this day take pictures of the Snapple Facts on their bottle caps, share them with friends, and even take a bit of personal delight in reading them. That little “extra” has gone a long way.
- Twitter’s #FailWhale. Who would have thought anybody would look forward to a service outage? Twitter could have just used some standard error page, but instead they injected some human touch and fun factor to create what we now call the “Fail Whale.”
- Slack. Slack does an amazing job of injecting humor and humanity into its product to make it more than just a mere messaging app, which, ultimately, is exactly what it is. Slack made messaging at work not actually feel like “messaging at work.” Do you really need so many emoticons or quirky loading messages? No. But given you are surrounded by your colleagues day-in and day-out (and oftentimes, these colleagues inevitably become your close friends), why not allow you to communicate in a more personal and fun way with them? This soul is what, in my opinion, has helped Slack stand out in comparison to apps like Microsoft Office Messenger or Hipchat, which make you feel like you are definitely “at work.”
- Nintendo’s Super Mario Easter Eggs. Nintendo has always done an incredible job hiding easter eggs and secret experiences in their games. From Pokemon to Super Mario, users spend hours exploring Nintendo’s games trying to discover something new and unexpected. They connect offline to talk about it and share what they’ve found. There are even entire subreddits dedicated to finding easter eggs in the original Super Mario for NES! Their games, in this way, extend beyond the experience of playing. And that explains, at least in part, why so many of Nintendo’s offerings have such loyal followings and why their games have such a long staying power.
- Google Doodles. Google’s Doodles, while starting off as just a fun little experiment, have actually been shown to increase engagement with their brand as well as traffic to their search engine. People will go to Google to see what they’ve done to commemorate the Olympics, July 4th, or any major holiday or event. Is it necessary for a search engine to customize its logo sometimes daily? No. But it conveys above everything else that there are real people on the other side of the screen, and they’re putting thought into (and themselves take delight in determining) how they present their product to the world.
- Uber’s “Kitten Delivery.” Uber is a commodity, like Snapple. There’s nothing fundamental that separates them from Lyft. They’re a ride-sharing company. But they routinely engage in marketing efforts which do separate them from their competitors. Consider their Kitten Delivery back in the day, in which users could send kittens to their friends through the app. Now that’s a great way to delight your customers.
- Apple’s Package-Open Swoosh Sound. Apple may be the best example of this. No, they don’t redesign their logo every day, and no, they don’t send kittens to your doorstep, but they go the extra mile in ensuring that each time you interact with an Apple product or step into an Apple store, the interaction is itself a memorable and delightful experience. Consider the feeling you get when you open the box of a new iPhone — it makes the perfect swoosh sound when you take your phone out of the box. And that’s not an accident. There were hundreds (maybe thousands) of man-hours poured into getting that sound just right because, after all, opening the box of a luxury product is also a major part of the experience.
While these embellishments are not often “necessary,” they make a big difference when it comes to appealing to the end consumer.
Consider what makes the companies above stand out. In many cases, it comes down to how they make users feel when interacting with their tools and services.
There’s no secret to building products that delight. It’s just a matter of approaching the design process with empathy, strategy, and a genuine desire to excite. So when you’re building out your next “bare bones” MVP, remember to at least find one piece of delight to add to it. Your team and your end customer will both undoubtedly appreciate it — and remember it.