Remember that Kenner Star Wars toy commercial? You'd be sitting in front of the television eating cereal when that commercial would come on. You could hear the excitement in the announcer's voice. You thrilled at all the nifty features, especially the hidden compartment. (Oh man, the hidden compartment!) All you knew was that you had to have it. That's because you'd just been "wow'd."
This is the "wow factor" — when a product touches us in a way that enriches our lives, saves us time, or stirs our emotions.
Now, you're all grown up (so are we, sorta). Instead of the Millennium Falcon, think the iPhone. Apple knew we'd storm stores for a phone that appealed to our desires and senses — our phone, email, internet, movie player, and music all rolled up in something we could carry anywhere. And buy it in droves we did.
So how did Apple capture the wow factor? Oh, there were catchy ads, kinda like a toy commercial, and some nifty in-store displays. Apple built anticipation, hypnotizing us enough to be willing to wait in lines that wrapped around the building.
Then we got our hands on one and WOW! The phone was easy to set up. It was simple to use. And it felt right in the palm of our hand. Man, it oozed with "wow factor."
Wow factors don’t always have to look pretty. One of our clients, Photobucket figured out that solving simple user problems would help attract new users.
Photobucket knew early in its development that it wasn't enough to just provide space for images — people had to put them up on other pages too.
When we started with Photobucket, their pages were gnarly. Nevertheless, they stayed focused on helping people link their images. The "wow factor" of uploading photos on other sites made people very happy.
We've picked up on the idea that you don't have to wait until you have a product to wow 'em. You can seal the deal beforehand with a little wow factor. A design can be awesome cool, but it could land with a THUD if you don't wow your audience.
Here's another way to think about it, courtesy of our Chief Instigator: wow = project. If there's no "wow" then the project might not be worthwhile.