Using Psychology to Help Design Your Website #2

Is your website triggering the right emotions?

In our second blog considering how psychology can be applied to web design, we’re again donning our tweed jacket, stroking our goatee beard, and asking you to lay back on the couch and tell us all about your website – specifically, does it engender the right emotions in your visitors?

It’s all in the mind

We, humans, are emotionally sensitive creatures. The way we feel drives every action we make or decision we take, and we have less control over our emotions than we may like to think.

Because our initial emotional response to something we see, hear, touch, feel, taste or smell originates in our central nervous system, our reaction is instinctive. It all goes back a very long way – to what’s sometimes called our ‘old brain’, the part of our brain that has protected us for millennia. It triggers visceral reactions like fear, hunger and attraction that are linked to survival, and are imprinted on our subconscious. It’s this pre-programming that accounts for the instinctive reactions we feel if we see a snake or spider, stand close to the edge of a precipice, smell food, or see a pretty face (it’s true that sex really does sell products, and you don’t have to look too far to find campaigns that are based around our basic drive to procreate).

Because these visceral reactions are hard-wired into the DNA of all of us, whatever our gender, cultural background or social position, it’s possible for commercial designers to exploit them as emotional triggers.

So how do you want your web visitor to feel when they visit your site? As alluded to already, unless you’re promoting a reptile shop, having a snake on your landing page is probably not such a great idea, but there are many ways you can employ a knowledge of basic psychology to help engender an emotional response. Here are three of them:

  • Images

It takes just a fraction of a second for us to visually scan an image, for the information to reach our brain and cause a visceral response. The power of an image to set a mood and evoke an emotion cannot be underestimated, and for this reason, it’s essential that any images used on a website are carefully selected.

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Faces, in particular, are an especially powerful way to communicate emotion and promote empathy. We’re instinctively drawn to the human face to read expressions, to judge whether the person we’re looking at is friend or foe, and to determine whether we feel able to relate to them.

An image of a happy, smiling face on a website will convey a warm, inviting welcome, while an image of a sad or sick child will engender sympathy and compassion. Because we’re attuned to identifying images that are contrived, the more authentic an image, the more likely it is to promote the desired emotion in the viewer.

  • Words

Images will attract the visitors’ attention first and set the emotional mood, but your site will depend on written content to communicate the finer details of your message.

The words, tone of voice and style of writing you choose to use will be important in helping to keep the emotional engagement going. Whether the emotion you want to evoke is joy, excitement, frustration or sadness, web visitors tend to respond well to copy that tells a story and is character driven.

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  • Colours

The psychology of colour in design is complex, but certain colours can set off emotional responses, like red signalling danger for instance, which probably has its roots in our association of the colour with fire and blood. Shades of green can be calming and comforting, reminding us of the natural world, while blue, conjuring images of water and ice can give an impression of cool stillness. And by making we think of sunshine, bright colours like yellow and orange have the capacity to convey warmth.

Can we help your website make an emotional connection?

If your website is not bringing you the results you want, perhaps it’s not making the right emotional connection with your visitors. We’re not psychologists at Studio 18, but we do know a bit about the psychology of design, and we’d be delighted to help make sure that your site evokes the emotion you want in your visitors. Call us now for an initial chat!