How can you improve the memory of an experience?

Recently, I was browsing Google looking for items. During this quest, the title of one of them particularly appeals to me. Indeed, at first glance, it seems to answer my numerous questions and to be from reliable sources. So I started reading it and surprised, a few minutes later, an insert prevented me from continuing this reading.

“This article is for subscribers only. Subscribe”.

I found this experience frustrating and unsatisfying.

Inset appearing following the discovery of an article


The law of the apogee/end

Daniel Kahneman (Nobel Prize in Psychology and Economics) was interested in how we evaluate an experience. Following numerous tests, he demonstrated that humans do not evaluate an experience by the sum of what he felt throughout the experience, but by the average between the climax (the most emotional moment) and the end (the moment that concludes the experience).

Let's go back to my example from the article and create an emotion curve for each moment experienced to illustrate D. Kahneman's theory.

Emotion curve when discovering the article

If we add up all the experiences, the overall score is 3,4/5, which is relatively correct.

However, if we follow the climax and end rule highlighted by D. Kahneman, the grade given to the experience is no more than 2.5/5. Indeed, the only two notes considered are those of the apogee (here the discovery of the article 5/5) and those of the end (the discovery of the insert and the impossibility of continuing my reading 0/5).

So the memory of this experience is relatively bad.

Designing for the memory

Now with this law in mind, we are wondering how to apply it to design better experiences. Should we create by focusing on each moment of the experience, or by focusing only on the climax and the end?

According to Don Norman, the role of the designer is Design for memory, not for the real experience. This suggests that as designers, we need to pay close attention to users' emotions to identify peak moments. This identification will allow us to act so that our users have a positive evaluation of the lived experience. It is therefore necessary to keep in mind the law of climax and end when designing.

Here it is 4 main steps that can help us improve (the memory of) the experience we offer.

1. Identify peak moments through the User Journey

This first step is the most important. It's about understanding what the highlights of the user experience are, when they happen, and why. We can use tools such as the User Journey to summarize all the information collected and review the user journey. The emotion curve will allow us toIdentify peak moments (whether pleasant or unpleasant). It can be the excitement of discovering your service, the satisfaction and the feeling of triumph at the completion of a task or even the nervousness at the validation of the order.

Template de User Journey permettant d'identifier la courbe des émotions.

User Journey template to identify the emotion curve.

2. Amplifying the strong moments and minimizing the weak moments

The designer's mission will be to amplify positive moments to make them memorable ones. Here, no need to develop an expensive experience, but bringing positive emotions through simple actions can be extremely effective (using the user's name, accompanying them, congratulating them, etc.) His second mission will be to minimize every negative moment, to simplify it so that it no longer appears as a Friction point in our user journey (segmenting a form, reassuring the user, motivating him, etc.).

Mailchimp email campaign confirmation modal (source: Mailchimp, 2019)

Mailchimp is an emailing platform. In this example, pausing before sending in bulk encourages the user to go back and do a final check, but it also helps to lighten up this potentially stressful moment.

3. Take into account edge cases (special case)

In many cases, when designing, we focus on the main experience that our users are going to have. “What if? ?” is the question we must ask ourselves to imagine the maximum number of situations in which our user can find himself. A network outage or a download error can cause a lot of frustration. If we identify these “edge cases”, we will be able to minimize these irritations and thereforemitigate negative spikes. In the event of an error, for example, using simple vocabulary to explain the error will allow the user not to dwell on this moment of confusion.

ASOS ensures that error messages in the fields during the purchase are presented clearly and written in a user-friendly manner.

4. Happy Ending Story

Is it necessary to put everything in? Work to ensure that the user finishes the experience on a positive note. Make these concluding moments moments memorable and differentiating is a key objective. This is when your user will evaluate their experience. Recall that this is one of the two key moments according to Kahneman's law. It is therefore necessary for the user to focus on something positive to create a last pleasant memory. Let's be exciting, surprising and Let's go out in fanfare.

Asana, a management tool, shows unicorns at the completion of a task.

On April 1, Asana chose to use the image of a unicorn to celebrate the completion of a task. This ephemeral initiative, which was so praised by users, became permanent. The passage of this animal adds an emotion of fun in addition to an emotion of satisfaction.

What can we take away from all this?

Let's go back to the initial example of reading the article and apply this new rule. The idea is to avoid at all costs that the reader ends the experience on a negative note. So here is a proposal for improvement where we have on the one hand moved the negative final moment to the beginning of the reading and on the other hand minimizing this negative moment (here by adding a touch of compassion for the authors, and by turning a limitation into an opportunity).



Proposed correction for the site offering 20% of the articles. This insert appears as soon as the article is opened.

The human mind is efficient and economical in the way it selects and stores information. Our role as designers is to influence this backup process. How? By focusing on key moments in the experience - the highlight and the final moment - to create lasting memories for the user.


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