As UX and product design people, we know it's good practice to understand our users, right? That's why we do user research, conduct interviews, create personas, etc.
We try to capture all kinds of good and relevant insights in this work: demographic makeup, socioeconomic status, tech-savviness, subject matter familiarity, online and offline habits, etc.
But there's something we often fail to include in our research: emotional state. What might our user be feeling at the critical moment when they're interacting with our product or service? And how might that emotional state affect our design decisions?
This is important stuff. We're used to thinking about the inverse, about how our designs might affect someone else's emotional state, but how can we do that unless we're also considering what their emotional state is to begin with?
For example, let's assume the person on your support page is already exasperated. How might this affect your design decisions? Maybe they're anxious about a big purchase during checkout; how would you design for reassurance? Or, maybe they're excited to explore dining opportunities using your app; what cues — visual and otherwise — might you employ to build off this heightened emotional state?
Emotional state can influence a whole bunch of design decisions. For example, you might reduce and simplify content in cases where frustration or confusion are at play, or increase it when someone is in a research mindset. Brighter colors can be positive reinforcers, but they can also be cacophonous and distracting; you might opt for more muted tones when people are likely to be overwhelmed. Photography can make a human connection, but it can also be a frustrating distraction when people are in a get-things-done kind of mood. And so on.
The point is this: when you're developing your use cases, user flows, mockups and prototypes — really, whatever artifacts you use — try to incorporate insights about potential emotional states and make design decisions accordingly.
Just as it's best when interacting with people in person to try to gauge their emotional state and respond accordingly, your products and services should do the same. Good design is both anticipatory and responsive.