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Building Fun Moments in Software

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Recently, the Mudbath product team - comprising 13 skilled individuals with diverse career backgrounds - attended the 2022 Web Directions Summit at ICC in Sydney's Darling Harbour. As a team, we were eager to improve our skills and gain new insights to help us stay competitive in the software industry.

The two-day product track included keynote speakers who were heavyweights in the field of design. Their insights on software design made us all sit up and think outside of the typical product sphere. We were pleasantly surprised by the breath of fresh air that these speakers provided, as our day-to-day work of wrangling stakeholders, documenting requirements, and conducting research and analysis on systems can be draining.

As the conference continued, we found ourselves exploring other tracks, such as design and content. In the software industry, particularly for a product owner, it's important to possess a variety of skills, appreciations, experiences, and hats. It's a career that requires one to be good at everything but a master of none!

Overall, the Web Directions Summit provided our Mudbath product team with valuable insights, a fresh perspective on design, and an appreciation for the different skills that go into creating successful software. It's vital to continue sharpening our product axe and stay up-to-date with industry trends to deliver high-quality products that meet our clients' needs.

Visual communication evokes fun

The opening keynote was delivered by Yiying Lu, a renowned artist and designer whose work has been celebrated globally. Her opening presentation highlighted the power of visual communication in software design.

As software designers, it's easy to focus on the functional aspects of our work, such as ensuring that systems run smoothly and that users can accomplish tasks with ease. However, Yiying Lu reminded us that incorporating color and shape into our designs can break through linguistic barriers and evoke emotions like joy and excitement.

Perhaps the most famous example of this is Yiying Lu's own creation, the Twitter "Fail Whale." The Fail Whale was a visual representation of a tech failure that transformed the often-frustrating experience of encountering a 404 page into something memorable and even endearing. This simple but effective design quickly captured the imagination of people around the world, becoming a community of its own.


When you combine art with technology with right intention function and fun you can product something remarkable - Yiying Lu, Web Directions Summit 2022

Make software fun but challenging

The morning keynote on day 2 was by Himanshu Bharadwaj titled ‘Make joy your designs source code’, an idea laid out in this medium article. Himanshu explained that our brains love multi-sensory experiences, and the more our software products can engage the user's senses the more likely they will feel emotion and become loyal. Products should be easy to learn but challenging to master. 

The idea that products should be easy to learn but challenging to master is a key concept in user-centered design. When a product is easy to learn, it means that users can quickly and easily figure out how to use it without much effort. This is important because it reduces frustration and improves the overall user experience.

However, making a product too easy can also be a problem. When a product is too easy, it can become boring and lack the depth that keeps users engaged over the long term. That's where the idea of "challenging to master" comes in. By adding complexity and depth to a product, we can create a sense of challenge and achievement that keeps users engaged and coming back for more.

The key is finding the right balance between ease of use and challenge. A good product should be intuitive enough that users can start using it without much guidance, but it should also have enough depth to keep users engaged over the long term. This is where the art of user-centered design comes in - it's about understanding the needs and preferences of users, and crafting a product that meets those needs while also being engaging and fun to use


If the user experience is too hard the user will feel anxious but if its too easy the user will feel relaxed and bored - Himanshu Bharadwaj, Web Directions Summit 2022
Duolingo bird with its delightful encouragement
Duolingo bird with its delightful encouragement

Himanshu went on to say that when you offer feedback and rewards this goes a long way to nurture the relationship. Duolingo, the language learning app, is a true leader in fun software design. It’s a product that just makes you really happy no matter if it's the web app or the mobile app version!! It's a fun engaging experience right out of the block.

Fun prompts like a hand waving bird ‘keep going, practice makes perfect.’ and ‘excellent, that’s two in a row!' bring joy to the users. More interestingly, Himanshu added, "If we are happy in our roles we, we in turn will make happier software products."

Happy people make happy products, productivity increases by 12% in a state of joy. In a state of joy we become more cognitively flexible, productive and creative - - Himanshu Bharadwaj, Web Directions Summit 2022

Fun in 'functional' examples

Mudbath was briefed in by the Prezzee team to create a human-centered eGreeting product that evoked an emotional connection between the sender and recipient. The platform offered emotional prompts and meaningful visuals to help senders find the right words and sentiment to express their feelings. The team produced a fun experience for both sender and recipient where other organisations had previously struggled to pull off genuine eGreeting moments. Read the full case study Testing the power of emotional connections in eGreetings.

Fun and engaging eGreeting
Fun and engaging eGreeting

Just like the 'Fail Whale' 404 page example, the loading state spinner is a great opportunity to delight customers especially if there is a long latency which was the case for Mudbath's augmented design team working on AWAI. The .SVG loading state is on brand, quirky and communicates what's happening behind the scenes. Essentially embracing the wait! This has turned a holiday package conversion nightmare into a fun moment for prospective jet setters. We also ran internal workshops on ways we can use copy to reinforce brand moments, we even had a slack channel!

Fun loading spinner
Fun loading spinner

Web Directions 2022 recently showcased the value of incorporating fun elements into software projects, and this aligns with product teams craving opportunities to include extra budget for these "shmizzle" moments. These moments could be something as simple as a loading spinner, which can leave a lasting impression on the customer's mind, even if they may not fully appreciate the hard work and complex integration that went into the project. Let's also face up to it, the client and the customer won't appreciate the enormity of your complex integration work, the performance enhancement work the team slaved over, they will just fondly make comment at the fun loading spinner in the final showcase. Make sure you bring fun moments into your next software project.

In today's work environment, it's important to find ways to keep your team motivated and engaged. One effective way to do so is by incorporating fun elements into your software projects. At Mudbath, a company that values "Bring Good Vibes," we believe in the power of bringing joy and positivity to the workplace. One easy way to do this is by introducing fun moments, like custom backgrounds during meetings. For example, during your next Google meet backlog refinement meeting, consider using a custom background that is vibrant and lively. This can help create a positive and productive atmosphere, encouraging your team to be more creative and collaborative.

Incorporating fun elements not only aligns with your brand values but can also help your team and clients to feel more connected to your project. By prioritizing these elements, you can create a more enjoyable and engaging work environment that fosters collaboration, creativity, and productivity.