If you can anticipate needs and emotions, you can create a user experience that surpasses expectations, increases satisfaction and drives business results. Today, we live in an era of digital products that power up intellectual technologies with emotional intelligence. Brickit is one such product — an app that uses ML to detect what can be built from a pile of lego bricks. In 2021, it was named the Children & Family Product of the Year by Golden Kitty Awards.
In this piece, Andrey Medvedev, Head of Design at Brickit, analyzes their customer journey; especially looking at the emotional challenges it presents for users and describing solutions.
A magic wand for parents
Our audience unites very different people: the core is represented by parents of children aged 3 to 7. At this early stage, parents usually spend a lot of time with their kids. Being very closely involved in their development, parents search for activities to occupy attention. Loading cartoons on a tablet can be a solution, but many moms and dads want their kids to learn new things without relying on devices.
Here, Brickit appears like a magic wand: it scans your bricks (it’s surprising how many families amass huge collections!) and shows what you can build with them. The app enables younger and older generations to share a nice activity and assemble new figures together. Such qualitative joint experiences strengthen emotional ties within families.
Emotional touchpoint along the user journey
Speaking about what a person feels while using a product, there are emotions that come from satisfying a need (‘what’) and emotions that come from the way it happened (‘how’). By ‘how’ I mean user experience in the broadest sense: the interface of an ATM, a bartender greeting new visitors, notification sounds, etc.
All these things elicit emotional reactions, so they affect the relationship between the product and user. Shaping emotional reactions at every product touchpoint can also help reveal a space to work on — negative reactions will point to problems, while strong positive responses highlight hidden potential. The most common user path within Brickit generally consists of the following steps:
- First contact. A person downloads our app, launches it and begins looking around.
- Scanning. The person unloads their collection, scatters bricks in a pile and scans it with a smartphone camera.
- Choosing an idea. The app identifies the available bricks and offers a list of building ideas, from which the user can then select.
- Assembling. Using the provided instructions people build the desired object.
- It’s all done!!
Next, let’s take a closer look at several of these touchpoints, discuss the emotions users experience when navigating the journey, analyze the hidden challenges and identify solutions. Hopefully, these practical cases may inspire your own ideas and further inventions.
How we win users over through onboarding
Context. The first problem we face is that users may have false expectations of using Lego with Brickit. There are two ways of playing with Legos: you can buy a kit and build a perfectly accurate toy according to strict instructions; or, you can scatter all of your bricks in a pile, let fantasy run free and build from scratch. The first gives full control with no creative component, while the second provides so much freedom that only a few children actually use this approach. Brickit is something in between, offering help at each stage but leaving room for experimentation.
Proper onboarding can help users get the right idea more quickly, but typically no one actually likes it: for most people, to explore something by trial and error is more fun. Curiosity fuels creativity, which in turn stimulates inventiveness; both qualities we want to nurture in our users.
Solution. To set expectations, we clearly communicate the workflow of the app during onboarding: legos are scanned, ideas and assembly instructions are offered, and with some effort custom figures can appear. To breathe some warmth into the onboarding and personify it, Brickit got its own mascot. We jokingly call him Guru. Guru anchors the onboarding, tells the story and reacts emotionally to the process: he parodies the scanner, takes interest in the offered assembly ideas and delights in the assembled object.
Guru adds a layer of non-verbal signals that distinguish live interpersonal communication. Thanks to this, actually reading the onboarding text has become optional — the graphics and gestures from Guru are all self-explanatory. It’s like communicating with a foreigner— you may not speak the same language, but can still understand each other. That is, emotions can be evoked in users, or manifested in some other way: sometimes this can help establish and strengthen an emotional connection, making relationships deeper.
How we keep users entertained during scanning
Context. After the onboarding, users are invited to scatter their bricks and scan everything with their smartphone camera. The process of recognition takes a while. Wait states do not solve any of the user’s problems, their only purpose is to queue the user until processing ends. If it takes longer, waiting gets really annoying and frustrating. That means we have an opportunity to take a closer look at this part of the user journey and figure out how to infuse it with something useful or entertaining.
We expanded on the detail scanning animation together with the product engineers and created a series of prototypes, to help find a laconic form that would reflect the workflow of the technology and entertain users. Instead of forcing them to wait and feel bored, we show them a kind of TikTok.
Solution. We did our best to make the process of waiting as exciting as possible: after the camera shutter goes up and down, the screen fades out and rectangles appear where bricks are being identified.
At this stage, I often hear “Wow!” and see that people keep their eyes on the rectangles while in motion: they move from the upper-left corner of the screen to the lower-right, replacing a standard progress bar.
The scanning animation became very popular among our users, even uploaded videos scored tons of views on social media. So, if there is something in your product that evokes a vivid emotional reaction, it also might be a viral marketing tactic and help rapidly expand your reach.
How we help users vent inside the app
Context. Some touchpoints elicit more bright, positive emotions. So, why not ask yourself what you can do to redirect this energy impulse back into the product. How can you give a useful vent to the user’s emotions?
In Briсkit, this moment happens when you complete your figure. At this moment, a surge of strength comes and you feel flush with pride: “I’ve built a custom figure and it’s mine!” Then, you feel a strong desire to show this toy to family and friends for approval. After all, the desire to belong and be accepted by your community is a basic human need.
Solution. In response to this need and emotion, we came up with the idea to create a space in Brickit where users could share their creations with a community of like-minded people who appreciate their work. Because not every user has close-knit supporters nearby, or not so many.
It also turned out that many people do want to showcase their creations on social networks like Instagram, where the audience often focuses just on an image’s beauty. Since Brickit users have the proper optics to appreciate imagination and solving construction challenges, we decided to launch our own social network inside the app — a section with photos of user creations.
Just like human beings
Just like people building relationships with each other, digital products build relationships with their users. Therefore, digital products can be designed with respect and care for human psychology. The stronger the emotional connection is, the stronger the relationship becomes and the longer it will last.
Reinventing Emotions is a series of articles initiated by Readymag — a digital design tool that helps create websites without coding. Readymag values creative freedom, appreciates the trust of its users, and aims to support the development of the global design community. Continue exploring Readymag and our other resources here.