Brand and emotion go hand in hand. The feelings a product or service elicits from us can make or break its brand. We’re influenced by our moods, level of stress, color, smell, sound, past experiences, associations, and more. Despite how rational we think we are, our emotions influence decisions we make and the impressions that remain.


Emotional response is as important as task success in building long-term relationships with Avvo’s two communities: consumers and lawyers. Each group has different expectations and task goals for using Avvo. Usability and task success are key, but so is emotional response. Last year, we set out to define target emotions for each group that would guide our design process and help us begin to evolve the site’s colors and visual elements. We wanted our users to “feel” the right things. To do this, we used a variation of a method described by Carnegie Mellon professors Jonathan Cagan and Peter Boatwright in their excellent book, “Built To Love: Creating Products That Captivate Customers.”



We met as a cross-functional team representing all walks of Avvo life: executive, product, marketing, engineering, customer support, and sales. Together, we poured over what we knew about our users, their pain points, their goals, and how we wanted each group to feel about their Avvo experience. Since we wanted to change some of the look-and-feel of the site, this was a perfect time to weave emotional design goals into our process.


There are many ways to measure emotions. Many, such as electroencephalography and facial coding, are expensive, time consuming, and require specialists to interpret. As an alternative, the Cagan and Boatwright approach relies on simply defining target emotions and measuring responses with a survey tool.


These are the  target emotions we identified for consumers, in order of priority:

  1. Confident (as opposed to uncertain)
  2. Secure (as opposed to vulnerable)
  3. Accomplished (as opposed to defeated)
  4. Empowered (as opposed to helpless)
  5. Optimistic (as opposed to depressed)
  6. Enthusiastic (as opposed to indifferent)
  7. Connected (as opposed to isolated)


And here are the prioritized target emotions for lawyers:

  1. Distinct (as opposed to common)
  2. Honorable (as opposed to inconsiderate)
  3. Proud (as opposed to embarrassed)
  4. Empowered (as opposed to incapable)
  5. Independent (as opposed reliant)
  6. Connected (as opposed to lonely)
  7. Enthusiastic (as opposed to indifferent)
  8. Confident (as opposed to uncertain)
  9. Compassionate (as opposed to neglectful)


After establishing our target emotions for both groups, we sent out surveys with links to versions of the new site design that varied in background color. In the survey, we asked the groups to evaluate their responses for each target emotion. As an example, here is the question we used to determine whether we were on target for the sense of connectedness consumers were feeling:


The design of these pages gives me the sense that I am not alone—that there are other people who have similar issues.

Strongly disagree        -3         -2         -1         0          1          2          3          Strongly agree


We made our color decisions based not on what we wanted, but on what our users actually said they felt.


The introduction of new colors and fonts was just an intermediate step. We are continuing to evolve the way the site looks and (just as importantly) feels. Expect to see amazing things take shape. It promises to be an exciting year.

1 Comment

Millie Olsen on March 19, 2013

I would just like to leave a comment. I have been on this site for a few days now asking a variety of questions. I wish I had found this site before now. I appreciate all of the attorney’s that have answered my questions. Some of my questions were repeated and other attorney’s responded in different ways. For people like me that are way over their heads in a contested dissolution case but have no resources for representation, this site helps. The Legal Aide in my area (Pasco County, Florida) does not have the resources to provide representation for me thus my divorce is an unbalanced playing field in the court room against a well experienced attorney. It’s not fair and the law is not fair. But I must say that some of the attorney’s that have responded to my questions and comments today, have been helpful. So thank you for that and thank you for this site. I’m sure I’m not the only one in a situation like mine. I just hope they can find you like I did. Thank you.

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