UX Design’s Love languages explained
If there’s one thing that is consistent in design it’s that we are always dealing with people - empowering them, empathizing with them and collaborating to enhance the human experience. One of the most potent forces of inspiration and vigour in our human lives is love.
We gain the best experience when we intentionally seek to optimize each other's strengths and meet our shared needs. There is a great element of love in design. It’s in the intentional pursuit to always be considerate through usability, purposeful through utility and caring by ensuring accessibility and desirability standards are met. These standards help us convey that we are not only empowering people with our designs but we are responsible for them - and as passionate designers we enjoy that responsibility.
The Five Love Languages is a book by Gary Chapman outlining the five general ways people experience and express love. Here’s an overview of each expression linking it to user experience (UX) design:
1. Words Of Affirmation - People love Verbal encouragement.
Great UX writing is how we manifest verbal encouragement in our craft by always providing clarity, making choices simpler and the world people are exploring easier to grasp. Truthfulness, in a manner that is always helpful and never misleading.
We pay attention to context, intention and emotion in our experience with users and that is love.
Great UX writing is always purposeful and sometimes that means no writing at all, like taking in a moment and letting it speak for itself (Stafford).
Somewhat sticking to our theme, we’ll take an example like Tinder presented gathercontent.com as an example of great UX Writing.
Tinder provides support for humans attempting to build new bonds and relationships. They increase engagement by providing a framework that supports that venture. This framework also takes form in UX writing that can give users cues to help form these relationships through messaging.
2. Quality time - People love presence.
Presence can be found in taking time to get to know the user, empathizing their pain points, goals and playing our designated part in showing that we’re listening. It’s about giving users convenient and fun opportunities to get to know the product. User Research and Design Thinking can be empowered by the perspective of love, having a keen ear ready to listen and therefore anticipate user needs even before they are uttered. The pursuit of giving a user the feeling of “You get me” or “They really understand my needs” can result in them spending more time using your product.
An example of spending quality time with your user and responding to their needs is when Elon Musk (who frequents social media and stays in touch with his audience) gave the exact software update that a consumer asked for, because he was always there to listen and respond to their needs.
3. Acts Of Service - People love action.
The saying ‘Actions speak louder than words’ rings true in this case. Getting people involved by allowing them to experience the idea in action fosters a genuine connection to the purpose of the design and the fulfillment that comes with it.
Communicate with a really great prototype instead of pronouncing all the buzzwords to assure the user that you “get them”, let the user experience the thoughtfulness in the solutions you execute. This is the power found in a Lean UX canvas that guides into building a minimal viable product. Prototypes do not need to be perfect!
The main motivation of building a prototype is to showcase the ability of a design to fulfill the core need and use for the user.
Prototypes may be the internal version of love shown through action, but the infamous Apple event is another example of show and tell being a moment to directly connect with the user by showing them the anticipated product in action.
4. Physical touch - People love touch
Touch denotes towards the senses. Always appeal to the most relevant senses of the user in the given time and space of the experience. Visual cues and sound are the current go to, whilst touch is explored more when they tinker with our prototypes.
Sound can capture a user's attention in ways a graphic user interface can’t and there are multiple ways to do this. Namely notification sounds and interaction sounds. It’s only sensual when it's consensual, so ask a user's permission to let them hear that notification sound your team was so intentional about. Purpose is always a great measuring tool, so before we add sound, we should ask ourselves if we really need it? It’s only necessary if it’s providing useful information or enhancing user experience by assisting them to reach their desired goal.
As it is with all touch, there is always a time and a place. UXplanet makes an example out of Skype and its water themed brand that has aquatic sounds to match or Facebook messenger that clicks twice when a message is sent; one to confirm the message has gone through and the other to confirm it has been received. It’s more than decor, it’s an intentional communication of the senses.
5. Gift giving and reward systems - People love gifts and appreciate rewards.
Many people enjoy visual symbols of love as a reward system. The giving of a gift or reward is not limited to monetary value but can be centred around the symbolic significance of what’s been given.
Users can respond really well to a reward system, hence the popularity of Facebook Likes that have populated as hearts onto all other social media platforms. The incentive and satisfaction received after engaging with the design can be the gift that users experience because it spoke to their values.
According to UXplanet.com, rewards are always delivered in one of four different ways:
We can go into more detail on the specifics of these ways in a separate article. Staying on topic, it’s important to note that too much of anything good can definitely go bad, like when users become too dependent on gifts to feel satisfied. It’s akin to a relationship that’s too materialistic. The solution for such challenges can be found in giving people methods that help them take note of when they could be harming themselves through the product.
Digital products aren’t limited to using only one reward system. When used responsibly, rewards can be a fantastic means for users to experience the value in your product, adding a deeper level of engagement for users.
In conclusion, the design love languages can be a useful tool to improve how we communicate and design for users. Having an ability to humanize users and their needs can further help us contextualise our creations for the human experience and therefore design what people actually want and need out of it.
This is not the be all and end all to improving our empathy for users needs but it can be a great start to a beautiful and insightful journey.
Stafford, Patrick. “This is good UX writing. Eight principles for every interface… | by Nick DiLallo.” UX Collective, 21 September 2020, https://uxdesign.cc/this-is-good-ux-writing-10c4b956a6c3. Accessed 21 November 2021.
Tsholofelo Bhungane Radebe, a creative entrepreneur from Centurion, is currently a Senior UX Designer at DVT. A strategist well versed in Design Thinking, Lean UX and user experience, Tsholofelo is passionate about connecting brands with people in a human-centred way, from live activations to designing interfaces. He has a passion for art, design, archaeology and technology and uses his humanity to contextualise creative solutions for business goals. His personal mantra is 'Love is the highest vibration' and this shines through in his work and personal life.
Tsholofelo was part of the winning team in the 2021 ABSA Design Hackathon by making banking a digitally easy and intuitive experience.
Connect with Tsholofelo on LinkedIn.