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“Ah, Shit.” Or, “Hell, Yeah!”

I don’t quite know what to feel.

I just got back from my trip to Europe, and in my pile of mail is an announcement of the Nielsen/Norman Group User Experience World Tour.

And I see listed, on the main event, that Don Norman is giving a talk called “Expectation Design“. And I think, “Huh, is this like what I’ve been going on and on about with Explicit Design? Where I write “Through my work, what I’ve observed is that the web is all about managing expectations. Setting expectations, and then fulfilling them. That’s it. You do that right, and you’re golden.”

Well, the blurb for Don’s talk suggests it might:

Expectation Design: The Next Frontier
Don Norman
Good designers already know how to make products attractive (visceral design) and how to appeal to self- and brand-image (reflective design). Good behavioral designers know how to make products usable and understandable–indeed, that’s the focus of most of this conference. It’s time now to turn our attention to pleasure and fun. Here, the challenge for designers is behavioral design, where expectations drive emotions. This is where hope and fear, and satisfaction and anger reside. Deliver on positive expectations and people experience pleasure. Deliver something different than expected, but equally satisfying, and people have fun. Fail to deliver, or leave people feeling out of control, and you get a wide range of negative emotions.

Expectation-driven design marks a new dimension for our discipline and provides a new framework for design. It shifts the emphasis from pure function to an emphasis on designs that both function well and offer people pleasure, enjoyment, a sense of accomplishment, and yes, even fun.

So I can either feel good that I’ve hit upon something real, something that others are thinking about, including luminaries like Don, or I can mope that my meme will be carried away by the far more popular Donster.


  1. You have to give it to Don: emotions are the missing link in your description of explicit design. Sure, things have to be explicit, but why? Because it makes people *happy* to realise their expectations. Or on the other side, if you don’t make things explicit, people will get *upset* that they didn’t reach their goals.

  2. Words are cheap. I can go harping around saying anything I want and I may get recognized. Actions are gold. If you can show people what you’ve done/improved you’re much better.

    To me, Don and Norman are a waste of money. I don’t need people telling me what’s wrong. If I had $10,000 to fix a problem, will I ask Don/Norman to tell me what’s wrong (again) or find someone that can fix it for the same or less amount of money?

    Paper tigers.

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