Apr 2020
by Andreas Köster

Emotion and Usability: Interactive Products and the “Joy of Use”

Emotion and Usability: Interactive Products and the Joy of Use

Interactive installations such as multi-touch tables should inspire and captivate their users. They should function as eye-catchers and fair magnets and make a lasting impression on the visitors. But how do you manage to “breathe life into” an interactive product and still offer the users fun interaction even with supposedly complicated and dry content?

What is called the Joy of Use?

The so-called Joy of Use describes the positive subjective perception of a user in the use of a technical product – he or she simply feels joy in the interaction. The joy of use is well described and researched, especially for classical websites and software. Examples would be a search engine, which quickly and easily delivers the right results, or a banking software, in which one can comfortably maintain transfer templates. Monitors, mouse and keyboard are often used as input and output media.

Experience with interactive products

Achieving the joy of use in interactive products is somewhat more comprehensive. In the case of a multitouch table, for example, the external appearance of the device and any unusual multitouch controls are already part of the user experience. The usage situation at the table does not have a fixed “top” and “bottom” but users can approach and operate the table from all sides. It is possible that other users are using the same table at the same time. It is therefore all the more important to know all the relevant criteria for a positive overall perception and to consistently implement them in the implementation of a project (trade fair stand, showroom, etc.).

content – function – aesthetics: the steep path to success

A widely used model to concretize the joy of use is the tripartite consideration according to the dimensions content, function and aesthetics. The joy of use is created when all three dimensions of an interactive product are perfectly intertwined. The dimensions are in a limited conflict of objectives. If the content consists of pure text deserts, it can be difficult to find an appealing aesthetic. In any case, it is important to be aware of each dimension and to generate the maximum possible user experience.

Playful 3D dinosaurs on multi-touch surface

Advantages of a local multitouch software

A first and important step towards joy of use for interactive products is to say goodbye to web technologies (web apps). Although they offer a good standard for information exchange via the Internet on a wide variety of devices, they are generally not suitable for local experience installations. The supposedly obvious decision to simply use the familiar technology for new challenges would be a showstopper for the user experience:

The function is very limited in web technologies, interaction with multiple users is hardly possible. Basically, there is only a mouse pointer or a single touch point and the keyboard as an input aid. Intuitive gestures such as wiping, zooming, rotating, etc. are simply not available on the web. Interaction with objects is also only possible with a real multitouch software.

The aesthetics of web technologies are also limited because they must also work on the simplest mobile devices. High resolutions or real-time 3D models are virtually impossible. Loading bars, step-by-step page layout and pixelated images do not really appeal to anyone.

On the other hand, content stored locally on the multitouch table can be displayed in high resolution without jerking and reloading. Playing back several 4K videos simultaneously or zooming into a 3D globe is fluid and fail-safe only with local data.

In addition, the possibilities for the aesthetic presentation of a 3D multi-touch software are almost unlimited. It is precisely for this application that development environments for 3D games like Unity have been optimized for many years. Real-time calculated 3D worlds, particle effects, physics effects and much more are already implemented here as standard. A native multitouch software can visually captivate and surprise the user. This is how it works with the mediation of the actual content.

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