In recent years, I’ve been asking the people and organizations I work with a critical question: What are people going to love about your product¹?

I chose the word “love” carefully. People don’t buy a thing after doing an objective, rational analysis devoid of emotion. We don’t donate money to a charity based on an algorithm. Our decision-making processes mark us as irrefutably driven by our feelings – the field of behavioral economics testifies to this.

Technologists, especially, are prone to forgetting about this. We produce documents called “functional requirements,” for the love of Pete – as though human beings only want the world in which we live to be functional.

Function alone doesn’t beget love.

Don’t get me wrong; I adore the Firefox Awesome Bar’s ability to guess with uncanny precision what URL I’m looking for. I think Swiss Army knives are pretty wicked. And I can get pretty excited about just about any tool that fulfills its purpose with elegant efficiency. But the desire for efficiency and functionality doesn’t stand alone.

Some have argued that successful apps cater to at least one of the seven deadly sins. Maybe it’s my minister’s-daughter upbringing, but I think there’s a way to acknowledge our basic drives without labeling them as “sinful.” (Aren’t we past that? Let’s allow for a little more complexity, here.)

When Adam Nash writes about designing for passion rather than betting on the next great functional leap forward, what does that look like? Of course, passion is going to look different for different people, but when I think about what contributes to widespread adoption of a great product, three drivers stand out:

  • Meaning: We want our lives to have meaning – to better understand ourselves and our world, and to leave a legacy. The rise of social media is a direct outgrowth of this drive. We share the details of our lives online, and reach out to one another, in acts of documentation, creativity, and connection. What technology supports my desire for meaning? Well, for starters: WordPress‘s writing tools, and EverNote‘s ability to collect & sift my thoughts come to mind.
  • Delight: Pinterest. FlipBoard. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. ‘Nuff said.
  • Evolution: We want to feel like we are moving forward. Does it help me become better in some way? Is it more efficient, effective, or just more awesome-looking, than what’s gone before? Lift, FitBit, Kindara: When I use these apps, I feel healthier and more powerful.

Are you designing for meaning, delight, and evolution – along with function? What other things do you design for? And what other components of passion do you think comprise great design?

¹ Feel free to replace the word “product” with service, solution, or whatever word fits your context.