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The Kano model shows us how formerly delightful features turn into basic expectations over time. Image via Wikipedia

Would you like fries with that?

How do we distinguish between features that are required, desired, and delightful?

On any given webpage, there are an innumerable number of features to implement, links to include, and messages to express, especially on a university website. Our organization and the community we serve is diverse, rich, and varied. Small organizations or businesses can have a homepage that links to all of their content online, or even have but a single page of content. Google has over 1 million pages on usask.ca indexed, and that doesn't even count related partners such as our federated colleges, research centres, and so on.

So how does our design group go about the difficult process of deciding what goes on a homepage, what doesn't, and how each element should be presented?

Kano model

The Kano model is a tool used to describe features along two axes: satisfaction and investment. Features can be classified into a few groups with the model:

  • Required: basic expectations for users
  • Desired: features that users actively want
  • Delightful: features that users did not expect to see, but are happy to see
  • Anti-features: features that users would rather not have

To use an example from outside of software development or web design, imagine you are staying at a hotel:

  • You view hot water in your room as a required feature. If it is not present, you will be frustrated.
  • Amenities such as a pool, exercise room, or spa are perhaps desired by you or your family. You'll be happy if they are there, but won't be upset by their absence.
  • It would be delightful, but not expected to be greeted by name as you entered the hotel and handed your keys without needing to wait in line, show ID, and pre-authorize a credit card.
  • Charging for wifi is an anti-feature. By taking away something that you want, the business is hoping to frustrate you into paying for better service.

Over time, features stop being delightful and turn into basic expectations. Hot water was once unexpected, now it is required. I expect that free wifi has already changed from a delightful feature to a desired one; in a few years it will be a required feature. The first time I saw an origami towel in the shape of a swan I was delighted. Now, it's neat, but has lost that effect.

Also useful to note is the investment required for each of these kinds of features. Required features (like hot water) only need to be met. Investment beyond that point doesn't typically create a better experience. Adding desired features can improve the experience but the relationship is linear: two restaurants in a hotel is better than one, but costs the hotel twice as much to run.

Delightful features, since they are unexpected, can be low cost. They often showcase thoughtfullness and personalization. They also require that the designers understand the people they are building for. 

Our Model

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Our design group took a list of 18 common features that a university homepage could have. Breaking into groups, we thought about how different audiences of the university would react if any given feature was either present or absent from the homepage. This then told us if, for that audience, we should treat the feature as delightful, desired, required, or an anti-feature. Here are the results of those discussions:


Prospective students

Delightful

Social media feed
List of colleges/schools
Academic calendar
Find a scholarship
Find a person

Desired

A list of programs
Search tool
Photo
Search for classes

Required

Neutral

News feed
Events calendar
Job opportunities
Campus map
Search the library
Campus services
Donate to university

Anti-feature

Kids camps


Current students

Delightful

Campus map
Campus services
Find a scholarship

Desired

Search tool
Events calendar
Photo
Academic calendar
Search the library
Search for classes

Required

Neutral

A list of programs
News feed
Social media feed
List of colleges/schools
Find a person

Anti-feature

Job opportunities
Kids camps
Donate to the university


Staff and Faculty

The group working with this audience often felt that staff and faculty would have different responses to the features. They are noted in parenthesis below.

Delightful

News feed
Photograph
Campus services
Find a scholarship (Faculty)

Desired

A list of programs (Faculty) Job opportunities
Campus map
Academic calendar (Faculty)
Search for classes (Faculty)
Find a person

Required

Search tool
List of colleges/schools

Neutral

A list of programs (Staff)
Social media feed
Events calendar
Academic calendar (Staff)
Search for classes (Staff)
Find a scholarship (Staff)

Anti-feature

Search the library
Kids camps
Donate to university


Community and Alumni

Delightful

News feed
Events calendar
Campus services
Kids camps

Desired

Search tool
Social media feed
Job opportunities
Find a person

Required

Photograph

Neutral

A list of programs
List of colleges / schools
Campus map
Search the library
Donate to university

Anti-feature

Academic calendar
Search for classes
Find a scholarship

Assumptions vs. reality

The above exercise wasn't meant to be final. It informed the first prototype and helped our group of 20+ members think about the many different types of people who use our website. In reality, people wear many hats, and the staff in our design group are forming assumptions about our users. Feedback we receive on the design will challenge those assumptions and highlight where more specific research should be done.