In 2013 Lamborghini, the car firm founded by the Italian industrialist Ferruccio Lamborghini, produced 2,121 cars. By hand. And these cars sold for about $200,000 apiece.

Meanwhile in the same year Fiat, the Netherlands-based manufacturer, produced over 2 million cars, with mid-range Fiats costing about $25,000.

As a product they broadly serve the same function. But the question is, which is the more desirable car? Which would you rather own, a Fiat or a Lamborghini?

And how do we choose?

Once asked that question we find ourselves assessing the qualities of the two cars. We rationalise the miles-per-gallon and insurance costs, sure. But with the Lamborghini we find ourselves thinking about the speed, the design, the workmanship, the materials, the aesthetics. We visualise it.

And very quickly we realise that one of the main factors in our decision-making is desire.

Desire in UX

Desirability is established in users – and instilled in a product – through brand, image, identity and aesthetics.

But aren’t brand and identity separate disciplines to UX? Does adding brand, identity and image into the remit of UX design stretch the concept of UX until it becomes too broad and unworkable?

Such questions lead us down the wrong path. And in order to show why, let’s break it down a little…

Beep beep! What does a classic Merc say about its owner?

Aesthetics, brand, image and identity

The aesthetics: Lamborghini cars have a very strong aesthetic – you can always recognise a Lamborghini. A Fiat, probably less so.

Their brand is clear too: luxury and high end. Lamborghini cars are expensively finished, highly-engineered and probably have way higher quality parts than would typically be required of an everyday driver.

They also come with – and impart to their owners – a strong image: the cars have associations with the world of motor-racing (and shh… a historical connection to the world of tractors, but that’s another story).

Through this they allow their buyers to attain a certain identity: only a few thousand Lamborghini cars are made each year, so owning one means being part of a highly exclusive club.

Finally, all of these aspects of desirability mean Lamborghini cars, as products, instil strong emotional feelings in their users. This is likely to include pride and confidence, but overall it’s satisfaction.

Satisfaction in the UX formula

Satisfaction is the elusive quality that sits alongside utility and usability to create the user experience.

User Experience = utility + usability + satisfaction

Just one of the many UX formulae out there…

So back to the right way of thinking about this issue…. The question we should be asking ourselves as product designers and UX professionals is: what elements of brand, identity and image can we include in our product world that increase the satisfaction of our user?

There’s a lot of opportunity here: from major features that build tribes, that create exclusivity and reward power users; to the aesthetic decisions we can make on interaction animations, transitions, the colour palette, imagery, content tone/language and more.

Window Seater

This is a question I’m thinking about as we grow Window Seater. For a travel app, how can we leverage brand, identity and image in the user experience?

At Window Seater, Pete and I believe that, as travellers, we should build connections to the people, history and cultures through which we pass. And we believe in a new approach to storytelling: handmade, high quality stories that better connect us to the world and its people.

So how can we build desire around this and bake it into Window Seater’s products? How can we make users desire to be a part of our tribe?

Desire in the digital world

An example we can all learn from is Maptia – ‘home to a world of stories’ about the world and its peoples – and see how they’ve employed thinking about brand, identity and image in their UX.

Take a look at Maptia’s journey from 2014 to present day. Notice the enhancements to its design and the creation of a high-end feel via its typography, imagery and palette. Notice too the visual priority given to the Maptia community in the 2018 design.

Maptia homepage in 2018

And of course, the focus and pull of its improved mission statement, from:

At Maptia, we believe that if people from every country, every culture, and every background shared the stories of their lives and of their travels, then the world would be a more understanding and empathetic place. We also believe that this would encourage people to get out there and make the most of their short time on this planet. Our mission is to gather these stories together and create the most inspirational map in the world.

Maptia’s Mission Statement circa 2014

To:

At Maptia, our mission is to foster empathy through storytelling.

We aim to provide a platform for those who document and capture the world around us, bringing them together to create a lasting record of life on Earth; so that people everywhere can experience the cultural and natural wonders of our planet, can feel more connected to the biggest issues facing the world today, and can be empowered to create a better future.

Maptia’s Mission Statement circa 2018

Notice how the vision is now so much grander.

Also the focus has moved from 2014 team’s internal ambition, to 2018’s focus on appealing to and servicing an existing tribe: the photographers, writers, explorers and those passionate about our planet.

For us Maptia’s approach is hugely inspiring and definitely something to learn from.

So what exactly can we learn from all this?

As product managers and UX professionals, when we’re building products we need to factor desire into our product world to increase the satisfaction of our users.

When building our product we need to identify early on, what are the brand values it stands for.

We need to consider the image it presents, and the identity that it will impart to its users and which delivers them emotional satisfaction.

Seth Godin, in his writing on marketing and his excellent podcast Akimbo, talks about the refrain that people repeatedly tell themselves. Namely:

People like us do things like this.

Seth Godin

Or, taken another way, “people like us use products like this”.

Seth explains that anyone involved in marketing needs to reach out to these people, to this audience. Because these are the true believers and advocates for your product.

Before we can do that though, we need to know what the “this” is.

We need to think about image – or the reflective qualities of our product (thanks Don Norman!). What are the stories that the product tells about itself, and which the user can then tell about themselves? Whether it’s a travel app that signals that we, the users, believe in fundamentally connecting to the places and people through which they pass, or a luxury sportscar that signals their owner has status, that they’re powerful and part of an exclusive group.

When we do this, we’re on the right path to deliver satisfaction and increase the chances of a successful product. So yes. Yes desirability is 100% part of UX.