Pleasure based approach


In addition to usability based approaches to evaluate whether or not a product fulfils user needs it is also possible to evaluate the pleasure of the product. This is a new set of approaches and to some extent goes beyond traditional usability testing.


These approaches can be considered as being another layer on top of product usability. The layers in summary are:

  1. that the product actually is functioning,
  2. that it is tested for usability (expert, lab test, subjective);
  3. that the product gives the user pleasure. This approach should not be used instead of usability activities it should be used in addition and to complement usability activities to gain further knowledge about the product.

The suggestion from the pleasure based approach is that usability based approaches tend to be merely problem solving instead of increasing the market value of the product. The general idea then is that a more holistic approach on about the relationship between the user and the machine will give added value to user's pleasure with the product and thus increasing product sales.

Since this is a new approach it is not without childhood diseases. One of the greatest challenges in the field is to find out how to actually evaluate pleasure.


There are a couple of ways proposed to evaluate pleasure, involving user testing, and questionnaires.

User testing

Since almost by definition, pleasure-based evaluation is not task-orientated like traditional usability testing and indeed nearer to market testing, some differences of emphasis need to be kept in mind when doing testing for pleasure:

  • Amount of task structure. It is typical for usability testers to think in terms of 'tasks' or 'activities' with a computer product. However, our concept of pleasure is something that stands in opposition to work, so that emphasising the task-like or goal-orientated nature of the activities to be undertaken during evaluation may well nullify the very aspect of the experience one is interested in measuring.
  • Test personnel. Whereas in usability testing the evaluators ought to keep a psychological distance from the participants in order to objectively record the data arising from the user's experience and activities, in pleasure-based testing this may be an unproductive approach, since the clinical detachment required on the part of the tester may well dampen the 'fun' or 'exciting' aspects of the experience for the participant.
  • Methods of gathering data. Usability testing uses such measures as time on task, number of errors, subjective opinion, completeness of the work output. These of course are entirely inappropriate to measuring pleasure. Pleasure may be measured using an attitude questionnaire, as for instance in the work of Jordan cited elsewhere on this page, but more novel approaches to capturing the pleasure experience are urgently required, as for instance, asking a pair of users to record a short video film of their experiences with the product.


There are different types of questionnaires that can be used to evaluate usability of a product. For pleasurability reasons they are not entirely suited. To date there are at least one questionnaire that may be used for the evaluation of pleasure:

Pleasure with products, a general index, a questionnaire that is presented by Patrick W. Jordan in his book Designing Pleasurable Products: an introduction to the new human factors (see reference below). This questionnaire measures 'general' pleasurability. According to the author it is thoroughly validated and has a history of usage within product development. If you intend to use this questionnaire, make sure that you get the author's consent.

You may also want to develop your own questionnaire, if you do that make sure that you learn lessons from questionnaire development (for further reference on how to write your own questionnaire, see SUMI Background).

More Information


Jordan, Patrick W. (2000) Designing pleasurable products: an introduction to the new human factors, Taylor & Francis Books Ltd, UK.

Web sites

Affective human factors design, 2001 a recent conference held in Singapore.

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