Is ‘Delight’ the Best UX Design Intention?

Jared M. Spool
6 min readMay 23, 2019

UX Strategy with Jared Spool, a Center Centre — UIE newsletter focused on bringing UX to a strategic level inside your organization.

In a fairly ordinary hotel, by the side of the swimming pool, on a wall that would otherwise go unnoticed, there’s a bright red telephone. But the phone isn’t what makes this distinctive. It’s the sign mounted above the bright-red phone.

It’s labeled “Popsicle Hotline.”

True story. The Magic Castle Hotel in Los Angeles has nice rooms, but they aren’t special. The beds are comfortable, but not in any special way. Even the outdoor pool area is like hundreds of other hotel pools. Except for the bright-red Popsicle Hotline phone mounted on the wall.

Picking up the phone engages the magic. A voice answers “Popsicle Hotline. How may I help you?” You tell the voice you’d like a popsicle. There’s a small discussion about the flavor.

Then a moment later, a hotel employee, dressed up in a tux and white gloves, appears by the pool with a silver tray. On the silver tray is your popsicle. You retrieve your popsicle and thank the employee, who promptly disappears back from whence they came.

How do hotel guests describe their experience with the Popsicle Hotline? One word: delightful.

Is delight always the right design intention?

Delightful seems to be the perfect word for a Popsicle Hotline. We think of design as the rendering of intent. Delighting poolside guests with a tux-clad employee presenting a popsicle on a silver tray was their intention. They rendered it wonderfully.

But should designers always aim for delight as their intention? There are many designers who say ‘no.’ They are quick to bring up scenarios where they believe delight isn’t the right scenario. They suggest that delight is an inappropriate intention for serious outcomes, such as paying your taxes or planning a funeral.

Respectfully, we disagree. We think, even in the most serious of outcomes, delight is always the right goal to aim for. Here’s why.

What’s the proper opposite of frustration?

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Jared M. Spool

Maker of Awesomeness at Center Centre - UIE. Helping designers everywhere help their organizations deliver well-designed products and services.