When it comes to design, I often find that we’re so focused on creating functional interfaces and following the UI rulebook that we forget about connecting with our users on a more personal level.
When we solely focus on functional aspects of interfaces, we primarily focus on utilitarian goals. For instance, web services such as LinkedIn are utilitarian when it comes to creating a profile. The profile categories are extensive, but generic. Because of this, users are required to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to complete their profile and make it appear unique. LinkedIn attempts to ease this process by introducing the “Improve Profile” feature which gives their users tips (e.g.: showcase your 1-3 top accomplishments or describe your position at this company).
Yes, LinkedIn’s interface works and is easy to understand on a certain level. However, it may be overwhelming for users because of its utilitarian interface. The interface is impersonal, overwhelming, and boring. Because users are not emotionally invested in the experience, it’s difficult for them to complete or return to their profile.
Facebook on the other hand is taking a unique approach. The article Designers Behind Facebook Timeline described how the company’s designers wanted to create an emotional experience for their users. The theme for designing the timeline was based on the feeling of telling someone a life story and remembering one’s own life. For instance, users can add a “life event” to a timeline, which drills down to various personal categories (e.g.: new job, retirement, new relationship, new child, new pet, etc). The common approach would have been to ask users what happened in a particular year.
By creating an emotional experience, users are more likely to be engaged and invested in what they’re doing because the content suddenly becomes relevant to them.