32. Frictionless Emotional Messaging
We’ve discussed the emotional aspects of design and narrative, and know that most decision-making is ultimately based on emotions; tempered by logic, but still emotional. So it’s critical to understand that even when dealing with the most data-based and analytical scenarios, ignoring the customer's emotional motivations as they traverse your web application means adding friction and resistance.
It’s a high stakes mission to deliver your content architecture with appropriate emotional impact, suitable to your customer's desire and journey. Failing to provide a clear path and support for your customer's emotional being can create so much friction that their path is effectively blocked, and the system fails. Your goal is to support the customer’s emotional drive, along with their more logical goal-oriented motivation, so that it results in a successful conversion/resolution. Neglecting to develop a strategy for this and build it into your system can have far-reaching repercussions.
We often say on our team, especially at times of high stress, that no one ever died from a bad website. But that’s not always true. In fact, a number of years ago we almost saw this idea proved wrong. We had a client whose website served information and emotional support to at-risk teenagers. It offered them guidance and resources as they traversed the difficult teen years. Some of their messaging was directed at the young person at risk of suicide. One Saturday I received an urgent email and phone call from our client asking for help with one user of the website. The user had posted comments on a number of articles on the site that signaled suicidal intent. The path for this person through the site toward the goal of receiving help was not sufficiently clear. Through friction at the emotional messaging level, this person was at risk of being lost for good. Once it was evident that the emotional messaging had failed, we switched to more practical means. We tracked down the person's IP address and alerted local authorities of the person's whereabouts. They received help through direct human intervention just in time. This situation could have been avoided had the site better embraced emotional messaging strategies, and successfully guided the user through the site to find the help they needed more immediately and effectively.