Deliver great user experiences with the Kano Model


When developing a product we have the challenge to generate something that helps our users while providing a good user experience, this is where the Kano Model comes into play.

The Kano model helps us to determine where to invest our time to create or improve the user experience in the products and services we provide. This model also teaches us that we don’t need to make big investments of money or time  to create delightful experiences for our users.

Benefits of using the Kano Model

The Kano Model can help us:

  • Identifying what needs to be built.
  • Identifying real customer needs.
  • Deciding how to invest the time of your team.
  • What features are required and which ones you can say not to.
  • Determine if you are on the right path.
  • What are your advantages over your competitors.
  • Determine where there is room for innovation.
  • Determine the cost to make a successful product.

The Kano Model classifies product features in three sections, based on their effect on customer satisfaction:

  • Basic features.
  • Performance features.
  • Excitement features.

kano's three features to deliver good user experience

1. Basic features:

These features are taken for granted when fulfilled, but they create frustration to the user when not fulfilled. They meet the basic expectations of our users and nothing else.

An example of this would be the links on a website. Customers get frustrated when the links don’t work, but when the links work it doesn’t increase the customer’s satisfaction.

Things to consider with basic features

  • The satisfaction they provide is neutral unless not fulfilled.
  • We can only screw this up.

Dealing with basic features:

  • Be on the lookout for failed and missing user’s expectations.
  • Missing a basic feature causes extreme frustration.
  • Beware of the death of a thousand cuts.
  • Lots of missed expectations opens doors for competitors.

2. Performance features:

These are the features that create a competitive edge on your company, the features that make your product differentiate from the rest.

These features are usually related to performance and the companies make a big deal about it, for example: “Google Fiber offers Internet speeds 100x faster”, this promise generates great expectations on the customer, when the feature is delivered properly the customer is satisfied, when the feature is not delivered correctly the customer gets frustrated.

Having these features result in satisfaction when fulfilled and frustration when not fulfilled.

Things to consider with performance features

  • Avoid creating delight adding more and more performance features, this can lead to experience rot and high cost on development and scalability.
  • These features quickly become old news for the users.

3. Excitement features:

These are the features not expected from your product but they generate delight when provided. These features can be accomplished with an small investment of time and give us advantage over the competition.

These are the features that make the users to fall in love with your product.

After creating a website with a framework and publishing it on my twitter account, I received a hand written letter and some stickers from the Zurb’s team, now I can say that Foundation by Zurb is my favorite  front-end framework.  Writing a letter and sending it old style doesn’t take a long time and doesn’t require a big  monetary investment, but the excitement created was priceless.

Another example would be signing up for Google Play, you expect to be able to watch movies on demand that you pay for but it is very nice when they give you one for free.

Development vs Satisfaction

Kano Model Explained

Kano Model Explained

On this graphic, select one of the ends of the lines and follow the dotted lines to the horizontal axis to see how much investment is required to get to that point, then follow the dotted lines to the vertical axis to see how much satisfaction the investment will generate.

With the graphic of the Kano Model we can also see how no big investment is required to generate delight to our users.

Avoid the fatty features

As humans, when we eat too much at one sitting, all the extra food ingested will become fat, unless we workout a lot to burn those extra calories… or something like that, the point is: We want to develop features that create a real impact on our users and not useless ones that disrupt the experience. Having too many features could create deterioration in the overall experience and higher cost to support and scale the product. This is also known as experience rot.

experience rot graph

Representation of Experience Rot

If you are in the scenario where Experience Rot is present, the smart thing to do is to meet real clients to identify the features they are using and the features they are not using.

How to avoid the fatty features

  • Carefully curate features to match the experience vision.
  • Prune out experience rot with each release.
  • Just because you can doesn’t mean you should develop it.


The Kano Model help us to determine the investment required to create a good user experience by classifying  the product’s features  in three categories:

Basic features: To develop these features could require a big investment from development. Not to develop these features will create frustration on the user  since they are expected to be there. These features are a must have and can’t be ignored.

Performance features: These features create satisfaction for the user and they are the ones that make your product to stand from the competitors. At the beginning the performance features could create a big excitement on the user but quickly they become the norm since they have been expected from the beginning. To poorly develop these features will generate frustration on the user since they have been expected.

Excitement features: These features generate delight for the user, they are not expected and they can be accomplish with an small investment.

I am originally from Venezuela but I have been living in Austin, Texas for the last 8 years. Web development has been part of my life for more than a decade; It started in the middle of my College years and by the time I got my bachelors degree in Electronics Engineering I was already known for delivering complex projects while delivering a good user experience.

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