Kansei Engineering Applied to Web Design


A conceptual dimension in web design, development and thinking is called “Kansei engineering” a deeply held philosophy that every website should be designed and developed to provide strong emotional as well as functional satisfaction to its user.

Trends in website development mean that many websites will be hard to differentiate due to working in the same way.  Website users will base their decision to remain on a website more emotional or subjective reasons.  Kansei Engineering is proactive design philosophy that translates customers impressions, feeling and demands into design solutions.

“The impression that somebody gets from a certain artefact, environment or situation using all her senses of sight, hearing, feeling, smell and taste [and sense of balance]”

Kansei and the five senses

“Kansei” has to do with the five basic senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste and the way in which they interact with personal values, ethics and emotions.  It is a word encompasses the meanings of such words as sensitivity, sense, sensibility, feeling, aesthetics, emotion and affection. It aims to seek the structure of emotions which exist beneath human behaviours.  This structure is referred to as a person’s Kansei.

The etymology of Kansei (Lee 2001)

Alternative terms might be total sensitivity or receptiveness, although in its full Japenese meaning goes much further.  It is what is felt when all the senses are in harmony.  “Thoughtful awareness” and “heightened sensitivity” are the expressions that come closest to defining Kansei.  Perhaps the realisation that the appropriateness of each element on the page underlies the goodness of the whole, that the synergy between the user and the site can be felt by anyone who uses the site.

Developed by Mitsuo Nagamachi

Kansei Engineering was developed mainly through the work of Mitsuo Nagamachi at the University of Hiroshima.  Nagamachi said that it helped the investigator to understand the relationship between the formal properties and experiential properties of a product.

When designing a website, many designers consider the market segment rather than the individual for which the site is being developed.  Some web developers regard the people that use websites as simply as members of a market segment.  At Bailey Street Design we consider them as individuals, each having individual feelings and lifestyles.  We strive to make people feel satisfied, relaxed when we approach the “look and feel” of our websites.

Applying Kensei to Web Design

When I create a website that uses a Kansei engineering sensibility, I focus the attention on the behaviours of people when they perceive images or elements and it reveals how their personal or cultural biases affect their feelings.

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