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Mark Pearl


Aims of this chapter

  • Explain what expressive interfaces are and the effects they can have on people
  • Outline the nature of user frustration and how to reduce it
  • Describe how technologies can be designed to change people’s attitudes and behaviour
  • Debate the pro’s and con’s of applying anthropomorphism in interaction design
  • Describe the affective aspects used in interface agents and interactive physical toys
  • Present models and frameworks of affect that can be applied to interaction design
  • Enable you to critique the persuasive impact of an online agent on customers


What are affective aspects? The main focus is on how interactive systems can be designed to provoke an emotion within the user.

Expressive interfaces and positive emotions can be used in an interface to

  • Convey emotional states
  • Elicit certain kinds of emotional responses in users

One benefit of using expressive embellishments is that they provide reassuring feedback to the user that can be both informative and fun. They can also sometimes have the opposite effect.

The style of an interface in terms of the shapes, font, colours, balance, white space can also have an impact on the interfaces affectiveness.

Rule of thumb is that the better an interface is designed, the more tolerant the user will be if things do not work properly.

Frustrating Interfaces and Negative Emotions

Things that can cause frustration include

  • When an application doesn’t work properly or crashes
  • When a system doesn’t do what the user wants it to do
  • When a user’s expectations are not met
  • When a system does not provide sufficient information to let the user know what to do
  • When error messages pop up that are vague or obtuse
  • When the appearance of an interface is too noisy, garish, or patronizing
  • When a system requires you to carry out to many steps to accomplish a task

Often user frustration is a result of bad design, no design, inadvertent design, or ill-thought-out design.

Some things to keep in mind

  • Avoid gimmicks
  • Avoid non descriptive error messages
  • Avoid making the user wait unnecessarily
  • Avoid complicated upgrade processes
  • Avoid cluttered design and extreme us of graphics / colours

Anthropomorphism in Interaction Design

Anthropomorphism is the propensity people have to attribute human qualities to objects

People have a tendency of attributing human qualities to objects and animals such as pets, toys, etc This is becoming more common in interaction design.

Examples would include cuddly toys that respond to their environment, helping agents that have human like qualities, etc..

There are people who are for and against the concept. Some of the reasons for people against the concept include…

  • Can lead people into a false sense of belief
  • Can be deceptive

Interface agents, virtual pets, and interactive toys

Examples include Tamagutchi pets, The Woogles, etc.

A lot of work has been put into designing interactive toys etc. including…

  • Recognizing and responding to verbal and non-verbal input
  • Generating verbal and non-verbal output
  • Coping with breakdowns, turn-taking, and other conversational mechanisms
  • Giving signals that indicate the state of the conversations as well as contributing new suggestions for the dialog

Models of affective aspects

Emotional design model


Pleasure Design Model

Proposes four conceptually distinct types of pleasure

  • Physio-pleasure – Feels nice to touch
  • Socio-pleasure – Fun to have family participate with it together
  • Psycho-pleasure – Satisfying to use
  • Ideo-pleasure (cognitive) – Makes sense to use, i.e. Eco-friendly car

Technology as a Framework

Four core threads that make up our holistic experiences

  1. The sensual thread – how absorbed we get while using the device, i.e. computer game that we find addictive
  2. The emotional thread – does it invoke emotions such as happiness, sadness, etc
  3. The compositional thread – does it have a narrative path, well thought out path
  4. The spatio-temporal thread – how does it effect our space and time

These aspects are there to help designers think of the different threads and the experience they will invoke.

Posted on Friday, November 4, 2011 1:43 PM UNISA INF 3720 | Back to top

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