Joy of use

Joy of use – the joyful software usage experience

I've been working on the subject of Joy of use for quite some time now. My 2000 master's thesis (German "Diplom") in Psychology dealt with "Joy of use – determinants of the joyful software usage experience" ("Joy of use – Determinanten der Freude bei der Software-Nutzung"), and I've addressed the topic on a number of conferences:

My primary research goal was to establish a definition for Joy of use. I've come up with the following: Joy of use of a software product manifests itself to a certain user in a specified context as the joyful-pleasurable experience of the interaction and the possibilities as the consequence of unobtrusive, great functioning and due to the aesthetically pleasing design through usage that is motivated by and according to the user’s goals and interests. (From my paper for the Work with Display Units (WWDU) 2002 conference in Berchtesgaden, Germany; the slide deck for the talk can be downloaded as well)

Here's a summary of my thesis:

Key questions:

  • Why do some people seem to have fun while working with computers and software products while others just hate it?
  • What is the difference between the software systems they are using? Do the users differ?
  • Is the term "joy of use" just some marketing buzzword?

Results from nine interviews with experts from the field

  • There is something like joy of use (for most of the interviewees)
  • Joy of use is derived from certain features of the software (usability, design)
  • Builds itself up dynamically:
    • User: expertise, motivational and differential factors, gender
    • Software: unobtrusive functioning, aesthetic design, small handicaps / surprises (!)
    • Context: positive-agreeable
  • Quality and character of work change: more fun, more efficiency
  • Perception of software changes: software becomes more of a partner
  • Moreover: broader acceptance, more natural handling …

The Experts’ Advice:

  • Listen to the users and their needs (N=9)
  • Don’t try to design for joy / fun – it won’t work!
  • Have (visual) designers on the team, examine related products (e.g. games), know what’s going on in the community, think different 🙂 !
  • Enable developers to have fun during development