Back in July, I talked about the important role that fun plays in great user experiences. A sense of fun, playfulness, or adventurousness goes a long way towards making your software or website more inviting to current or potential customers. Of course, there are some circumstances where this would be absolutely inappropriate, but for the 99% case, I see no reason why you can’t make your software more enjoyable.
Fun can manifest itself in a variety of ways in your software: whether you’re talking about developer tools with a extremely small feedback loop (look at REPL programming environments, like Dr. Scheme, for examples of this), or applications like Google Earth inspiring a desire in their users to explore and discover. Also, websites like Zillow gently remind their users that real estate doesn’t have to be as painful as a root canal.
I found another great example of this concept this morning over on Google Video. It shows a CD burning application for Mac OS X that emits smoke while it burns a CD. That’s wild. It’s absolutely gratuitous, but it makes the software that much more enjoyable to use.