Lickable or Lovable?

By | May 20, 2010

I met with a smart guy who is building out a user experience strength at his company.  He said that he was trying to make his product “Lickable and Lovable“.  Of course, I have been a huge proponent of Lovable applications and services.  However, lickable or “sexy” is a different adjective that has different connotations.  I think it’s an important distinction.

One metaphor is about marriage and one-night stands.  You make life-long commitments to those you love.  To those who are “lickable” or “sexy” you might have a fling, but without love, you have no long-term commitment.  However, on the flip-side, you don’t give many people a chance because they aren’t sexy enough in the beginning.  You have to start somewhere and Lickable is how you get started.  Then, you either fall in love or you don’t.

The Apple iPad (and iPhone) has alot of people drooling and it certainly has alot of sex appeal.  However, once you have it for a while, the sexiness is replaced with either real love or just “like you as a friend”.  Apple has done a good job of making their devices both initially sexy as well as lovable in the long run.

If you are building out a design discipline from scratch, should your goals be the same?  Both sexy and long-term lovable?  I think the answer is yes, although it’s important to keep in mind that they are really different things and take different skills to master.

Sexy, in a product is all about the seduction in the beginning.

  • How did you hear about?
  • How did you first see/demo it?
  • How did you buy it?
  • How does buying this make me feel?
  • What image does this product project by the fact that I own it?
  • What does the packaging look like?
  • What is the out of the box experience?
  • How does it look?
  • What gestures do you use to communicate with it?

Later, once they become accustomed to it, then the more long-term feelings will dominate.

  • Does it help me every day?
  • Do I depend on it?
  • Does it treat me well?
  • If things go wrong, does it fail completely or is there a safety net?
  • Am I proud of it and what I have done with it enough to show other people?
  • Do I wish I had something else instead?

Alot of this feels like a question a marriage counselor would ask, doesn’t it?

At first, I said focusing on Lickable was not the priority because without love, you will only have one-night stands with customers.  However, after sleeping on it, I think it is important to get your foot in the door and have that initial “Wow”!  So, yes, you need both, but make sure you understand the responsibility of each in a customer life-cycle.

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