Start casting your product with characters from rom-coms

Angel Anderson of Nailsnaps #romcomux at Interaction 16 (photo: Magnus Nilsson)

If science fiction is the prototyping tool for technology, can romantic comedies be a source of inspiration for relations between products and customers? Angel Anderson of NailSnaps advocates the use of #romcomUX.

Angel Anderson is the CEO and co-founder of NailSnaps, a service where users upload their patterns and images and turn them into nail art. She used to work as product designer for CP+B and Huge.

For quite some time science fiction, especially sci-fi movies, has been a big inspiration for invention. Just think about the impact that the TV series Star Trek has had on product development.

– Science fiction has been a prototyping tool for design and user experience, says Angel Anderson. But it is often limited to only involving technology. For feelings, like the reason why people love products and services, perhaps it’s better to let romantic comedies inspire you.

Romantic comedies – rom-coms or “airplane movies” – has a perfect balance between people’s expectations and their yearning, according to Angel Anderson.

– We should start casting our products with characters from rom-coms.

Character 1: The Flawed Protagonist (s)

The leads of rom-coms can be of different types. Often either smolderingly sexy, endearingly vulnerable, self-deprecatingly funny or just a hot mess – but redeemable. The main characters have one thing in common, they all get to a point where they reconsider the other lead in the movie (they detest each other at first, then realizes that they can’t live without each other).

– Cast your product and users as a would-be couple. What kind of protagonist is your product?

Character 2: The meet-cute

What’s it like when you first meet someone you fancy? It’s more than just the first glanze, and speaking of products it’s perhaps the first interaction. Angel Anderson mentions Trello and their Welcome Board, where learning to use Trello is simply to use it.

– What’s the meet-cute between you and your customer? What makes it memorable? Would-be lovers don’t overwhelm each other with every detail at their first encounter. Neither should your design.

Another example is MailChimp, who has worked thoroughly with user experience.

– If you’re using Mailchimp, you’re probably already a fan.

Character 3: The False Start

What is central is that you’re building intimacy and trust with someone you’ve just met. And sending people coupons doesn’t build love.

There are several ways to kill relationships. Products designed for obsolescence, misleading marketing, high frequency and low value emails are some common mistakes.

– People-centered UX isn’t enough. To build a relationship with a person you need to understand and appreciate them.

Angel Anderson gave us a tricky, and really interesting, thought exercise:

– How would you design your product or service if there were no follow-up emails or coupons to bring people back?

Character 4. The Grand Declaration

The best rom-coms have some speech that’s worth remembering. One of the leads talks openheartedly about something that has changed their lives and perspectives. In the world of products Angel Anderson mentions Domino’s and their pizzas, not only scandalized but disliked by customers. The company crisis some years ago led to The Pizza Turnaround, a total and seemingly honest makeover of the brand, the products and the attitude towards customers. This eventually led to an outstanding recovery (like 1200 % increase in stock value).

Character 5: The Supporting Friends

Every rom-com needs friends, people who can be reflecting mirrors for the leads. And as fictional characters have friends around them, you are likely to have friends and followers.

– How does your supporting cast help or hinder the love story you’re trying to craft with your users?

Angel Anderson mentions Slack.

– Slack is enormously popular because you can connect it to everything else.

Character 6: The City

Letting a city play a central part in a romantic comedy is very common. Sometimes it’s Paris, sometimes even Chicago. But the most common must be New York.

– New York is a place that almost everyone can relate to, and at the same time it’s a unique city. It has its own, special character.

Local atmosphere is also used by Airbnb in their city guides, Airbnb Neighbourhoods. Which is not only a collection of travel guides, but a way to interact with the local community – important both for getting people to rent out their apartments and give a positive image of the company to people who are critical to their business model.

Angel Anderson’s presentation was a real highlight on this fruitful first day of the Interaction 16 conference. I, for one, will watch romantic comedies with completely new eyes from now on.

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