The Psychology of Web Design 101

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The goal of a website is to attract visitors, and then retain them as customers. However, in the budding arena of Internet businesses not many graphic designers and web designers take into account the human element of web design.

Any designer worth his or her salt will know that the basis of a great web design is understanding the psychology of the audience. The patterns of the human brain have to be understood intrinsically to effectively navigate the choice of color, layout and message conveyed by the web design, and this can only be done through a careful plan that strategically orients the competitive intelligence to make the design effective.


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Why use psychology in web design?

The key to a successful business is engaging the target market and if graphic designers understand the psychology of the audience they can offer them a conducive experience to navigating the web design appealing to their conscious and unconscious drives.

The competitive landscape of online businesses is cut throat and diverse. The psychological drive of the audience if made high priority can have a positive influence on the user behavior so the bottom line is: Create a psychologically driven web design and you will be able to drive the traffic in a direction that positively effects the business bottom line.

Creative Mind

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Make the first impression a lasting impression

The first impression is the last impression. This may be an outdated mode of operation but the fact is, when visitors land on a website they are specifically looking for a product, service or information. If the web design fails to provide what they are looking for within the first 5-8 seconds of their landing on the page, the visitor will ‘bounce’.

In order to retain the attention of the notoriously fickle web visitor the design and layout of the page has to be specific to their needs. The color combinations, the navigation, the typography and the call to action have to work together to accommodate the visitor needs.

Many websites tend to opt for the ‘latest’ web design fad not realizing their target audience may require something more unique. It is essential to understand the visitors need and then offer a solution by limiting the choices.

Web Stats

Simplify the Content

The Internet has created an environment where the audience has effectively become used to being given information in a way that is obvious and requires no mental exercise. Unless, the website in question deals with a specific academic field or business industry that requires ‘hard core’ information all content should be presented in a simple yet, professional manner.

Understand your audience and then use action words that act as emotional triggers that will increase user engagement and interaction within the web design.

A wide variety of research suggests that online visitors make snap decisions and creating content that is convoluted and complex will narrow the target market to a large extent. To avoid losing the visitors and reaching a larger audience it is essential that the content created is simple, uses the inverted pyramid form of presenting information and ensures that a layman has no problem comprehending it. Content does remain the king of online marketing but simplifying the content will prove more effective in reaching the masses.

Eye Tracking the Format

Most visitors read the website in a Z pattern.

You get the visitor on your web site but unless you know how the user think and ‘sees’ information the ‘bounce rate’ of your page will remain astronomical. Inspired Mag, put forward an eye-tracking study that suggested audiences on any web page will focus on the call to action button and large headers before glancing at images.

Understanding this behavior, graphic designers should opt to create a navigational layout that ensures the call to action, and headline is placed in a prominent ‘first glance’ position and then the rest of the structure is built around it.

Most users will read on average 25% of your web content so breaking down the attention span of the audience (which according to Statistic Brain is 8 seconds) the best graphic designs will have carefully placed headers and call to action buttons that get the point across with the least amount of content.

Eye Track Shop Attention Level

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Color, Space and Typography

Numerous studies have been done on the psychology of color and typographic influence on human behavior and then implementing this understanding into the choice of fonts for web design. Emotions are developed, judgments are made on something as simple as the kerning, the choice of hue and the inspiration derived from even the curve of a font. These choices have an effect on the human brain and understanding the effect your color and typographic choices will have on the target audience can make or break a brand.

Eye tracking can become overwhelming and relaxing areas of white or negative space become an aid that divert the attention of the audience and drive them towards a desired action.

Take the time to understand your target market and then use competitive intelligence to influence the visitors on your web site. It will definitely increase the effectiveness of the site design and business plan.

Create the illusion of trust

Understanding human behavior is the key to business success. To influence the user towards a specific brand or action you have to gain their trust. Images and photos are a fantastic way to influence a user.

A brand that targets families can use photos that are ‘homely’, ‘caring’ and take into consideration the various elements of family. The emotional contagion works wonders as pictures that show emotions that cater to the message can go a long way in subconsciously influencing the audience.

Choose photos to display on the website that embody the business vision. Have a Non-profit organization that caters to animals images that elude to animal welfare, cute pets, etc. will display the notion of positive energy to the audience.

Placing some text next to the image that captures the attention of the audience and motivates them towards action will be most successful. Alluring and emotive captions can invite users to take action and allow them to begin to ‘trust’ the brand. Make the images memorable and unique and visitors will remember them for longer.

Web Design Trust

Bottom Line: The user experience is the main facet of a web design and if designers make an effort to understand the web audience for the business they will make a good web design, great. Call to action buttons, images, colors, hues, fonts and placement of navigational links all work together to make a web design effective. However, it is the web designer who understands the psychology of human behavior that successfully crafts a vision of creative power.

I am a digital marketing consultant with a focus on small and mid-sized enterprises. I believe the focus of every business should be on creating a consistent brand identity online and offline.

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