As coders we can make designs functional, reliable and even usable but as craftsman we need to create the pleasurable aspect to our designs in relation to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was created by Maslow Abraham in 1943 and describes how our hierarchy of needs must be fulfilled before others can be met.
- Level 1: Physiological, This which relates to food, water, sleep.
- Level 2: Security, This targets security of ones self, family, health and property.
- Level 3: Love & Belonging, Embracing this with family, friends and relationships.
- Level 4: Esteem, The Achievement of self esteem, confidence, achievement, independence.
- Level 5: Self-Actualisation, Is reaching the desire to become more, be more through realising ones potential.
When we relate this to the practise of design it can be translated to:
- Level 1: Functionality, The design meets the functional needs.
- Level 2: Reliability, The site elements are reliable between with constant stability.
- Level 3: Usability, The sites design is useable with great efficiency and effectiveness.
- Level 4: Pleasurability, The site is pleasurable to use, engaging and even creative.
Only when the lower levels have been worked through, and done successfully then can the pleasurability factor be completely worked on. This level engages the user, intrigues them and also is the level where the bond is being fully created.
We need to engage our new and future users emotionally in our site with what we are selling, this can rely heavily on the look and feel of the site / brand personality but when shown with enthusiasm, we then are emotionally connecting with our users. By creating this connection, we are turning casual users into great users, creating the Seth Godin’s ‘sneezer’ effect. We can push this concept further by adding personality to a design. Adding some personality can help the user to connect to with the designing, therefore engaging them more beyond expectation.
The sneezer effect is the idea about a product / service spreading by sneezers. Sneezers are people who have made the bond with the product, the product / service / design for them has reached the pleasurability level, its has engaged them and has sufficiently created a connection with them.
Emotional design is all about communication, when we communicate and properly engage with our audience we then create a bond, but to create that bond, you do not want to compromise your site in any aspect that sacrifices the functionality, usability or reliability. By disrupting this flow you then directly impact the hierarchy of needs and the structure that make the design work.
If we reference Hicks law, the more information and options on a webpage can clutter the users mind, which ineffectively slows down a users reactions and in extreme cases, be off putting with a result of an early exit. On drawing on this we need to ensure to have the correct amount of information / links / buttons / call to actions with a simple and effective navigation flow. This strategy can be devised by narrowing the amount of options the user has, which potentially makes the design more enjoyable and creates a better user experience.
By creating beautiful pleasurable designs we are drawing on a lot of emotions for our user, as attractive designs / products make people feel good. This feel good factor creates a trust in us by the user, reinforcing their validation for the product / service. The user may even become forgiving when mistakes occasionally occur due to this invested trust, and how our product / services makes them feel.
As designers of the web, we have a job to do, to educate, to lead by example and even push the boundaries. We need to engage the audience, create a connection with them, and turn them into loyal customers. This can all be created and come together with good
emotional design techniques and unique awareness of audience understanding.

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