Delight is opinionated design

A delightful experience will stand out in people’s minds. But not everyone finds the same things delightful.

The early days of Mailchimp’s branding is often touted as an example of surprise and delight done well. (Which is absolutely is.) It’s usually assumed that the cute mascot and silly jokes won everyone over and that’s the end of the story. But that high-level version of the story skips over one particularly important detail.

While the bold design choice of a prominent mascot and his style of humor were definitely memorable, it didn’t delight everyone equally. In fact, some people felt the exact opposite about it.

Not everyone finds delight in the same things

That same mascot and jokes that delighted so many Mailchimp users also alienated others. Heck, early Mailchimp designs even had a party pooper mode for users that couldn’t stand those same things that other people loved.

Surprise and delight is opinionated design. Any design choice bold enough to evoke an emotion as strong as delight needs to have a strong point of view behind it. Whichever path you choose to create your moments of surprise and delight, it’s a choice that will win some people over, but also drive some people away.

Leaning into the opinionated nature of surprise and delight is a good thing. A bold choice will never please everyone, but “safe” design won’t create any stand-out moments at all. And being clear about who you want to create delight for can help you cultivate a loyal audience.

Opinionated design is bold and interesting. Personally, I’d love to see more of it on the web.

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