Measuring Emotions in Lean Product Design
By Joy Burke

Designers know that testing is an essential part of the product design process. Whether it is part of an ideation workshop or a longer product building engagement, nearForm designers strive to validate assumptions made by product teams. If we do not verify how we think a product’s users will behave, then there is a chance that we build something they may not want.

The testing method we employ assesses a product’s usability by watching and measuring a research participant’s ability to perform a series of tasks. Emotions such as frustration and delight are also noted when they occur. Test results are analysed and integrated into the product design.

Over the years we have witnessed the significant shift from usability to user experience design in the IT domain. Our job titles changed as the influence of technology grew in our daily lives. We focus on how a person feels when using the product or service we design and we encourage our teams to do so.

We have come to accept that creating a product user experience is based on a system of assumptions that require verification. Small budgets and quick product iterations require the testing phase to be Lean.

So why am I suggesting we try to accurately measure the emotional response of a research participant as part of this phase?

Firstly, it is possible in a Lean manner. Garcia and Hammond (2016) suggest using a self-reporting, guided method, whereby participants tell researchers how they are feeling at distinct points throughout a test. They identify the emotion and intensity level they are feeling on a chart.

Figure 1. Emotion chart participants use to select emotions and intensity levels throughout an experience.

Secondly, it can help us build better products and services. According to Garcia and Hammond,  test results can be used to create an emotional journey chart that illustrates a user’s emotional experience with a product over time, as shown in Figure 2. By coupling this with usability results, they claim that the emotional journey chart displays a rich story that identifies which parts of the product need to be improved. Garcia and Hammond found test participants more reflective when using the chart compared to verbally expressing emotions without using the chart. They also claim the tool offers a deeper understanding of the product experience than user ratings.

Thirdly, we owe it to our domain to explore and support processes that facilitate good design practice. No longer basing our decisions on intuition, accurate measurements of emotional responses contribute to building more informed products. Ensuring that a product elicits positive emotions is a strong indication that people are attaining goals by using our products or services and will continue to use and endorse them.

There are many other self-report methods to measure the emotional response including The Geneva Emotion Wheel by Scherer (2005) in Figure 2, and PrEmo by Desmet (2003), in Figure 3. The Geneva Emotion Wheel does not require a technical set-up for the collection of data as it can be printed out and completed with a pencil. Others interested in the area have gone on to create digital survey tools. Designers in nearForm are looking forward to pursuing the idea of measuring the emotional response of the products we design.

Figure 2. The Geneva Emotion Wheel by Scherer


Figure 3. PrEmo by Desmet


Garcia, S.E. and Hammond, L.M., 2016, May. Capturing & Measuring Emotions in UX. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 777-785). ACM.

Scherer, K. R. (2005). What are emotions? And how can they be measured? Social Science Information, 44(4), 693-727.

Desmet P. (2003) Measuring Emotion: Development and Application of an Instrument to Measure Emotional Responses to Products. In: Blythe M.A., Overbeeke K., Monk A.F., Wright P.C. (eds) Funology. Human-Computer Interaction Series, vol 3. Springer, Dordrecht

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