How to use sensory memory in UX design

by | Apr 4, 2023 | User Experience

Give your users the ultimate feels

Once upon a time, there was an oak tree. It was over 3,000 years old but still, it grew taller and broader. It survived throughout the centuries, even though many things surrounding it faded, rotted or disappeared. And no matter how many leaves left or branches branched, its original roots remained.

Okay, fairytale’s over. Now that you’re in a philosophical mood, the tree is the user experience (UX), the leaves are your customers, and the branches are our tactics for growing and keeping leaves (your customers).

Why the metaphor? It’s a good metaphor for how UX is an age-old concept that keeps evolving as we learn more about customer needs and behaviour.

Sensory UX is one of the older branches of the UX tree. Consider Feng Shui, for example. This ancient Chinese philosophy dating back to 4000 BC involves harmoniously arranging surroundings to promote breathable space and user-friendly navigation.

Modern sensory UX is very similar. The goal is to create harmonious user experiences that target positive sensory memory and, ultimately, more conversions.


The sense of accomplishment

Some smells, tastes, views, textures, and sounds are universally irresistible. If you’re that good, you can create a sensory experience that becomes globally enticing. For example, the new car smell. It just hits differently but tragically only lasts for a short time. And anyone who’s seen a Lindt ad can agree that you don’t need to have a sweet tooth to crave creamy Swiss chocolate.

We can go even deeper.

Virtual reality gaming creates a fully immersive, sensory experience that doesn’t require anything real to make it happen. Yes, you need a gaming console and a VR headset, but the hardware does not initiate the sensory experience.


How to implement sensory design

1. Explore and understand the senses There are nine primary senses involved in sensory UX:
  • The five basics: See, hear, taste, smell, touch
  • Interoception: The internal state of the body
  • Proprioception: The sense of movement
  • Nociception: The sense of pain
  • Equilibrioception: The sense of balance
To base your designs on these senses, you must understand how they’re received, stimulated and modulated.

2. Make research your best friend You can’t nail a sensory design if you’re basing it on your personal experiences. Speak to people, get the necessary insight and compile a list of sensory design ideas that accommodate diverse sensory scenarios. Remember, too, that many people are over-sensitive to certain senses, under-sensitive to others, or can’t experience some at all.

3. Don’t overdo it Ever encountered an overstimulated toddler? If not, consider yourself lucky.

Overstimulation wreaks havoc in the brain and overwhelms the user, which is the opposite of what you want. So, although sounds, images, and animations may be super-cool for you, they could overload the person you’re designing them for. Try to balance the scale between engaging and distracting.

4. It’s the cupcake, not the cherry Sensory memory in UX is not a bedazzling machine that gives other strategies a sparkly edge. You’re treading into human cognition and your designs can seriously affect users. Therefore, if you want to implement sensory memory in your UX design strategy, include it in your overall product strategy vision from the get-go.


Remember, sensory impressions last

Although sensory memory is a short-term experience, it is still absorbed into subconscious associations. If you’re going to play with users’ senses, know that you’re also playing with their perceptions of your brand.

Dabbling in your customers’ subconscious minds? Or Give us a call; we’ll help.

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