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Pumpkin Spice Lattes and UX

Call me basic: I’m a PSL girl.

Can you blame me? I’m literally Autumn. I can’t say no to a cardigan, a walk through falling leaves, an oversized sweater. Perfection.

And pumpkin spice latte is a staple of that autumnal bliss. I enjoy the smell just as much as the taste: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice. Warm in a mug, cozy with a good book.

And coffeeshops — especially Starbucks — aren’t shy about advertizing it. Spice it up. Fall in love. Scary good.

It’s a whole experience. A user experience.

Focus on the familiar

PSL is presented as cozy, familiar, a remnant of childhood. I remember going to the local apple butter festival as a kid and chowing down on everything fall-flavored. One of my favorite moments with my grandma was walking through quiet streets and watching leaves fall to the ground.

Even though PSL is a relatively new thing, companies focus on what’s already familiar to people. You have happy memories of the fall? Here’s the same thing in a cup. It’s not new: It’s a return to something known.

People like being in familiar territory. When we can bring known patterns to our users, they’re more likely to feel at home.

Lean into seasonality

PSL is only available for a couple months a year (though this has recently been expanding). Because it’s seasonal, there’s a sense of urgency. Get it before it’s gone.

Let’s be clear here: there’s a difference between being relevant and being sneaky. I’m not advocating for dark UX patterns like Only 2 left in stock. However: meeting the user where they’re at, at the right time and place, can vastly improve the UX. Give them what they need, when they need it.

Don’t try to please everyone

There are some haters out there. People love to hate pumpkin spice lattes just as much as I love to love them.

But here’s the thing: Everything isn’t for everyone. If you try to work for everyone, you end up working for no one.

Make your product work for your users. Have specific use cases, personas, and features, rather than becoming a feature factory focused on pleasing everyone.


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