For most of us, testing for “coolness” is not at the top of our quality list.  Our users don’t have to buy what we test.  Instead, they get forced to use it by their employer.  Nevertheless, coolness can’t hurt. 

As far as testing for it…good luck.  It does not appear to be as straightforward as some may think.

I attended a mini-UX Conference earlier this week and saw Karen Holtzblatt, CEO and founder of InContext, speak.  Her keynote was the highlight of the conference for me, mostly because she was fun to watch.  She described the findings of 90 interviews and 2000 survey results, where her company asked people to show them “cool” things and explain why they considered them cool.

Her conclusion was that software aesthetics are way less important than the following four aspects:

  1. Accomplishments – When using your software, people need to feel a sense of accomplishment without disrupting the momentum of their lives.  They need to feel like they are getting something done that was otherwise difficult.  They need to do this without giving up any part of their life.  Example: Can they accomplish something while waiting in line?
  2. Connection – When using your software, they should be motivated to connect with people they actually care about (e.g., not Facebook friends).  These connections should be enriched in some manner.  Example: Were they able to share it with Mom?  Did they talk about it over Thanksgiving dinner?
  3. Identity - When using your software, they should feel like they’re not alone.  They should be asking themselves, “Who am I?”, “Do I fit in with these other people?”.  They should be able to share their identity with joy.
  4. Sensation – When using your software, they should experience a core sensory pleasure.  Examples: Can they interact with it in a fresh way via some new interface?  Can they see or hear something delightful?

Here are a few other notes I took:

  • Modern users have no tolerance for anything but the most amazing experience.
  • The app should help them get from thought to action, nothing in between.
  • Users expect software to gather all the data they need and think for them.

I guess maybe I’ll think twice the next time I feel like saying, “just publish the user procedures, they’ll get it eventually”.


  1. Emily said...

    Now I know how the Testing Team defines "coolness" of a particular software. I agree that users look forward to the amazing experience when using the software.

  2. Breanna said...

    It seems interesting to become part of the Testing team because you get to try the product first before everyone else does.

  3. Mark said...

    I think software is cool if it does very well the thing it was made for in a pleasant way.
    A user will download a specific application in order to get something done, be it social interaction, buying groceries, finding a location, play a game, etc...
    If that application does what it was made for very well, in an intuitive and pleasant manner, it leaves the user satisfied and thinking that the application is cool.
    Thinks that I think make an application cool are: nice looking user interface, fast paced interaction and most of all usability - it has to do what it was made to do very well.

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