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Design for Reflection

When designing QlikView applications we are constantly striving to create sparkling applications which comply with usability best-practices, have a great look and feel and have charts that justify the purpose of showing data which can add value to the customer’s business. But a lot of times, in spite of checking off everything that we can think of in terms of creating a world class app, the customer is not convinced and app is left on the table for us to take back. Maybe then, taking design one step further is what is required to make a full impact.

Don Norman, in his book ‘Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things’ talks about 3 levels of perception. Visceral – 1st stage - how someone perceives the visual aspect of a product, Behavioral – 2nd stage - how the product works, ease of use and ergonomics.  Reflective – 3rd level – what does this product say about me. Most often times, we work on the first two aspects, usability of our apps and then making them look good but it is seldom that we think about how our apps reflect the users. Does it suite the image of the customer? Apart from showing all the value that our product brings to them, does it connect with the customer on a psychological, cultural and aesthetic level?

Reflective processing is when our desires for sophistication and to be aesthetically at par with cultural biases influences our likes and dislikes.  It is a very common human trait since we live in a complex social and cultural set up. Owning products that reflect positively on our personality is a natural human instinct. For instance, preferring a coffee from Starbucks over an ordinary coffee place not just because you like the coffee but also because it reflects something about your personality and brand consciousness.ref.jpg

According to Norman, designing for reflection is one of the most powerful ways to build long term product-user relationships. Not only does it impacts the user’s perception but also creates a deeper psychological connection and an emotional engagement with the user.

Simple tricks like skinning the QlikView application with the customer’s brand identity can make a big impact on the customer’s perception of the app in a positive way. But influencing someone on a reflective level goes beyond aesthetic appeal. The key is to be user-centric rather than being product-centric.

Here is what some of the successful product strategists have done in order to hit the inner nerve of the customer’s brain.

  1. Cultural Trends - Studying cultural patterns and trends that exist within the target user group helps in identifying user expectations and preferences. This can help a lot when designing apps that customers can identify with and prefer owning.
  2. User pain points – Tackling the pain points of the user in the design and then branding the product in a way that orchestrates those pain points and offers solutions to help resolve those can really hit the note. This helps in creating a self-reflection of the user in the product.


In general spending some extra time and efforts to research the target audience and catering to their needs and preferences can create a product that is a reflection of the users and will stand a better chance of appealing to the user as opposed to just being a good looking robust application.

9 Comments
satyadev_j
Valued Contributor

Well written! I like the word "Emotional Design" . We should really think about these factors while designing the apps.

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Marcio_Campestrini
Valued Contributor

I agree with Satyadev. Let's start thinking this while design apps.

Apeksha, thanks for another great thought.

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dfoster9
Valued Contributor

Great article :-). This is one of the classic conflicts between visualisation styles with Fewnian minimalism on one-side and McCandlessian eye-candy on the other.

I always consider the audience and the first-impression factor when designing dashboards.

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thanstad
Contributor

Thanks ! Nice Article, and using pain points is very useful.

/tormod

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sudeepkm
Valued Contributor III

another nice article from you.. Thanks a lot.

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ChiragPradhan
Contributor II

Apeksha Pathak Nice article. But is it really possible in the real world, as each user would have different sense of what is good design for them and each would have a different learning curve for the same. Any case studies that you can share would help.

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Not applicable

Hi Chirag,

You’ve raised a good point. Even though people have distinct opinions on everything including design, there are certain cultural & psychological similarities or biases that bind them together.

And those could be related to anything from age, gender, cultural background to professional backgrounds and experiences. For instance, a group of young people starting a company will prefer their company’s website design to be trendy and will be willing to experiment. On the other hand a group of experienced people starting a company might go with a more stable, toned down and established design style for their company website.  Similarly, there are cultural preferences that can affect how people perceive something.

Here is a case study http://www.sajan.com/blog/high-context-and-low-context-cultures-gaining-an-edge-in-website-localizat...

And here is an article supporting this argument http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soren-petersen/design-professionals-culture_b_949266.html

The point is that design can be more effective if it is audience-centric catering to a general trend that is seen within a group of people no matter what sensibility each person in that group carries.

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ChiragPradhan
Contributor II

Insightful ! Thanks.

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ses
Contributor

Interesting article Apeksha. In my view, there is a natural priority when building QlikView applications. Time designing a well layed out, easy to use application, which ties together related content should always be the priority (the Behavioral aspect) since this will deliver continued value to the customer. Visceral aspects will ease understanding and improve adoption, perhaps even deliver a little wow!

Although they should be considered the Reflective aspects run as a lower priority for me as it's harder to gauge the business benefits. Whilst some thought should always be given to ensuring the application is suitable and appealing for the target audience this should never detract from the value in the data and its associations.

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