15th December 2014

Building your user experience roadmap with the Kano model

Mike Jongbloet
Head of Design and UX

It’s often hard to apply complex theoretical marketing models in ‘real life’ scenarios. We learn that there are right and wrong ways to do things from an academic perspective, but the tug of empirical evidence and data guides us to optimise based on real time user habits. There are effective ways to combine both ‘real life’ learnings and theory, to achieve an optimal user experience.


Kano model

What is the Kano Model?

The Kano model, developed in the 1980s by Professor Noriaki Kano is a theory of product development and customer satisfaction. The model provides a classification by which you can categorise current or potential features of your product to indicate how they affect the experience a customer will have and therefore customer satisfaction.

According to the model, a feature of a product or service can fall into three categories:

  1. Delighter
  2. Performance
  3. Baseline


A “Delighter” is a feature that- if included- will delight the user, but won’t have any impact if not included.

These unmet user needs are the differentiators and game-changers for your product; users don’t know they want these features until they’ve experienced them.

An example of a delighter is Spotify’s “Radio”, which helps you discover new music similar to your listening tastes. It’s not a direct ‘need’, but enhances the user experience when included.


A “Performance” feature has a linear effect on customer satisfaction: the better the implementation, the higher your satisfaction.

These features are generally expected to be included but the level of expectancy will differ depending on the product or service.

An example of a performance feature is free storage space on Dropbox. Customer satisfaction is proportionate to the amount of space given. There is a breakpoint, where the amount of space given begins to produce a positive impact (e.g. 0Gb would be negative, 2Gb may be expected, 4Gb will produce positive satisfaction).


A “Baseline” feature will impact the experience negatively if not included, but will not provide any positive impact if included.

These features are expected by users and will decrease satisfaction if not included. However, as they are expected and taken for granted there will be no positive impact by including them.

An example of a baseline feature is the ability to send a text on a mobile phone. It provides no satisfaction as it is expected and taken for granted, however if it wasn’t possible it would be a negative.

Baseline - texting on a mobile phone

Negative and non-impact features

The final category which suggested features can be placed in is ‘negative’ or ‘non-impact’. These are features that either have no impact, or have a negative impact if included.

Negative and non-impact features should be identified and removed from planning as- at best- they will provide no return on investment and at worst you’ll be investing to decrease satisfaction.

Building your UX roadmap

Once you’ve done your research and have your features organised into the three Kano categories, you can begin to build your product development roadmap.

Begin with your Baseline features

Without getting the basics in place and making sure your product performs to a minimum standard it won’t matter how good your product is, you’ll be left with opinions such as “Yes feature X (Delighter) is excellent, but if it can’t do X, Y or Z (Baseline) its useless to me.” We’ve all experienced products like this in the past.

These features are musts and can’t be excluded, so begin by setting up the foundations for a great product and make sure your baseline features are put up-front in your roadmap.

Prioritise your Performance features

Your performance features are where your competitor analysis and user research come into play. Your aim should not be to use your budget to maximise all performance features, but rather craft a plan which:

  • Provides enough of each feature to reduce any negative impact
  • Provides positive impact for the particular features that your users see as high priority
  • Provides positive impact on features that help you differentiate from the competition

If, for example, you are building an online storage product you may decide not to compete on storage offered and instead focus on speed of transfer and usability (all Performance features). In this instance, you would invest enough to make sure your storage levels are comparable with the competition, investing more heavily in your speed of transfer and usability and eclipsing their offering.

The key is to ensure you invest wisely and strategically in these features, rather than trying to be the best at everything and burning your budget.

Differentiate with your Delighter features

Your roadmap should now be in good shape. You’ve created your base product by developing the Baseline features and added some real value by focussing in on particular Performance features; now you can add the cherry on top by introducing Delighters.

Delighters will differentiate your product from the competition and provide solutions to your users unmet needs. At their most effective, Delighters can be real game-changers. Ensure you select the correct Delighters to include strategically- these should balance well with your Performance features and enhance the product.

Maintain your roadmap

Now you have a great blend of features you can plan future investments to:

  • add new Baseline features to keep your product competitive
  • improve Performance attributes, either bolstering current priorities or investing in a new attribute to continue to differentiate
  • add new Delighter features to keep your audience engaged

Be aware of feature degradation

Over time as the competition catches up and the market saturates, features which were once Delighters can degrade to Performance, eventually becoming Baseline. In the early days of cloud storage, 100Mb of free space was considered a Delighter. Over time, this has degraded to a Performance feature where 100Mb would be disappointing. In fact, a minimum of 1Gb storage could be considered a Baseline feature in today's marketplace, where Dropbox and Google Drive set the standards.

Keep checking your roadmap with user research and even forecast the degradation of your feature set to ensure your product is keeping ahead of the market place.

Theory doesn’t have to be jargon!

By using the Kano model to inform your UX roadmap, you can strategically plan and prioritise features and ensure your budget spend is both structured and best placed to provide the ROI you are hoping for. Used in conjunction with solid research efforts and ongoing measurement it is a really effective tool by which to plan future investment.