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I recently observed a group of branding professionals brainstorming ideas for a luxury brand. They used a host of inspirations to hopefully inspire a sense of exclusivity and quality. These included Mercedes, Mont Blanc, Apple, and several fashion brands. The design of these conveyed luxury. I wondered how this is applied in the field of UX.

Imagine you are designing a site to convey similar characteristics to luxury products, the feeling of excellence, specialness. (Referring to quality in the sense of luxury.) i.e. The doors of a Mercedes and a Chevy both close but the Merc is designed to feel better.

I am not just thinking about aesthetics (as that might a question for a different board) but in different facets of the design and it's effect.

Can UX help achieve a feeling of luxury? If so, are there good analogies that might help communicate this to clients?

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Ah, I just noticed a slightly similar question today talking about qualities in aesthetics. I'll leave mine because it's different as it is asking 1) About UX in general. 2) About clearly communicating quality to clients. Besides I've had this on my mind for some time :) –  Jay Jul 9 '12 at 15:26
    
I reworded this question as I realised it wasn't clear enough I was referring to a sense of luxury and how it relates to UX. –  Jay Jul 9 '12 at 16:25
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up vote 11 down vote accepted

In addition to the HEART metrics (Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention, Task Success) we also measure 1) new user adoption by whether or not training costs decreased and 2) existing user adoption by whether help calls decreased.

I'll try to answer your follow up question and to do so you must first understand the personality of the user's you're designing for. Think through all of the details about your users, from their personality to their socio-economic status to how they would interact with the system. (i.e. the personality of a Scion consumer will differ than that of a Lexus user). If you can add in unobtrusive details that cater to the user's personality it will help create that emotional connection with the system. Think of a quadrant like the one below (source) to help determine the personality and tone. enter image description here

Attention to detail is possibly the second most important aspect when creating something that feels well-rounded and polished. By not overlooking the details you make the user feel more valued, like you took the time to make sure everything was perfect. Go into the waiting room at a Lexus dealership vs. Toyota and you'll see how different everything is down to the flooring they choose.

As an interesting aside, I saw Billy Hollis speak recently and he talked about how advertising spaces for luxury stores typically have a lot of open space, defying the myth of horror vacui. Sometimes less is better and reducing "clutter" on a screen can help significantly.

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Great article. Thanks for sharing. –  Jung Lee Jul 9 '12 at 15:47
    
Thanks for the good answer. I've recently reworded the question to be clearer in it's intent. Your answer is spot on for measuring general effectiveness though. –  Jay Jul 9 '12 at 16:40
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Thanks Ben. From the linked wiki article: "Research suggests there is currently an inverse relationship between horror vacui and value perception, and commercial designers are advised to favour minimalism in shop window displays and advertising to appeal to affluent and well-educated consumers, on the premise that horror vacui appeals more to poorer and less-educated audiences." I looked at this further. This article has some nice examples to illustrate: alistapart.com/articles/whitespace –  Jay Jul 9 '12 at 18:21
    
Thank you for sharing I like seeing more examples of this. I try to focus on seeing them in everyday things spurred by a book titled "The Design of Everyday Things" by Donald Norman. –  Ben Jul 9 '12 at 18:49
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Yes, UX Design can definitely help you work out areas what and how to add emotional and customer satisfaction qualities in your design. The Kano Model is an interesting example of how to relate product features to customer expectations. In terms of luxury, you probably want to focus on things that surprise and delight users rather than what they expect (unless you are meeting their expectations at the highest levels possible).

Thinking about what luxury means to the user, there are probably some different aspects you can focus on and draw appropriate analogies for:

  1. Exclusivity: people would probably associate luxury items not to be easily available or accessible to the general public (e.g. limited editions, VIP members or having to meet certain criteria like getting a free bottle of wine on your birthday)
  2. Quality: there needs to be some characteristic that clearly demonstrates the value and quality of the item (e.g. material used to create the item, craftsmanship, warranties or guarantees)
  3. Extravagant: it needs to go above and beyond what the general population would consider adequate or reasonable. It is about the combination of the first two factors, because items can be high quality without being exclusive, or exclusive without being high quality. I think when the two are combined in a way that goes beyond the user's perception then you will have achieved the feeling of 'luxury'

I'd be interested in finding out how well the luxury brands convey this on their website when it comes to matching the user experience of using their website to the brand and image.

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I recently read an interview with Jonathan Ive (Head Apple designer) and a few paragraphs struck me as cutting to the heart of this issue:

Q: Do consumers really care about good design?

A: One of the things we’ve really learnt over the last 20 years is that while people would often struggle to articulate why they like something - as consumers we are incredibly discerning, we sense where has been great care in the design, and when there is cynicism and greed. It’s one of the thing we’ve found really encouraging.

Q: Users have become incredibly attached, almost obsessively so, to Apple’s products - why is this?

A: It sound so obvious, but I remember being shocked to use a Mac, and somehow have this sense I was having a keen awareness of the people and values of those who made it.

I think that people’s emotional connection to our products is that they sense our care, and the amount of work that has gone into creating it.

Customers may not be able to put it into words, but they sense the care that has been put into design.

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